The Quebec Mineral Exploration Association, or AEMQ, wrapped up its annual mineral exploration convention at the historic Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City on an optimisitic note.
Formed in 1975, AEMQ has 2,000 individual members including prospectors, geologists, brokers, geophysicists and some 250 corporate members, says Valérie Fillion, who is the executive director of the non-profit organization.
By Nov. 20 Fillion said about 1,500 delegates had registered, but that “people kept coming and it added up.” Attendance was expected to round out at 2,000.
AEMQ provided a handful of technical and educational workshops from Nov. 18–19, followed by an evening reception on Nov. 19 and a trade show that picked up the morning after, with more than 100 exhibitors.
Some 40 speakers gave talks about topics ranging from the diversity of nickel deposits in the world and capital markets to the next generation of Quebec mines, including industry trends and public expectations.
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, as the convention’s honourary president, also met with exhibitors and attendees. Labeaume had served as president of AEMQ from 1987–1988.
“In view of the challenges that have arisen, this event becomes crucial to the evolution of the development of mineral resources. We all know that last year was eventful for the industry as a whole, to say the least,” he said. “But prospectors, geologists, explorers, producers and investors remain confident that Quebec’s mining industry will do its best to remain a world leader in exploration and development.”
Fillion added that “we are one of the best places in Canada [for exploration]” and “we have stable laws and rules — we have only explored 15% of our underground potential.”
Despite the uncertainty looming over Quebec’s mining royalties, with expected hikes, many companies were quick to highlight the benefits of working in the province.
The Parti Québécois’ promise during the elections to increase taxes “scared a lot more people outside of Quebec than it did inside of Quebec,” manager of investor relations for Threegold Resources (THG-V) Sylvain Laberge said.
The anticipated hikes didn’t make it into the provincial government’s first budget tabled on Nov. 20, but the new regime would apply a 5% royalty on all mines, increasing to 30% if operational profits exceeded a benchmark.
Despite the anticipated tax hike, many companies believe the province remains an attractive mining destination.
“The bottom line is that, for a gold exploration company, this is the best jurisdiction in the world,” Eagle Hill (EAG-V) president and CEO Brad Kitchen argued, pointing to a tax break the government provides as an incentive for exploration.
“For every dollar we put into the ground, we get 35¢ back,” he said, adding that the province offers mining infrastructure, a skilled pool of workers and “a clear and defined path to work on.”
Eagle Hill is advancing its high-grade gold Windfall Lake project in the Abitibi belt in northern Quebec, which is estimated to start production in two to three years.
“There’s nothing bad that we have to say about Quebec as a place to develop a mine,” director of investor relations at Royal Nickel (RNX-T) Rob Buchanan commented, noting the province offers low-cost power and “no surprises” in its permitting process.
The firm is working on completing a feasibility study on its Dumont nickel project in the Abitibi by mid-2013.
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