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MONTREAL(Kitco News) - Draft legislation to conserve and sustain 50% of the Plan Nord territory in Northern Quebec was unveiled by Quebec Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks Pierre Arcand On Friday, making it the largest land conservation project in history.

“The protection of the environment, ecosystems and northern biodiversity will be at the center of the Plan Nord,” Arcand said. “We have taken unique steps to preserve the natural and ecological heritage of Quebec.”

The surface area of the region is 600,000 square kilometers, Arcand said.

Northern Quebec is twice the size of France and will be home to Quebec’s Plan Nord project for the next quarter century.

The Plan Nord project, announced May 9, has mining firms and the Quebec government investing $80 billion over 25 years to mine gold, diamonds, copper, molybdenum, rare-earths, nickel, lithium and uranium in Northern Quebec.

The Canadian Boreal Initiative stated their support for the legislation.

"We are thrilled to witness the launch of this historic legislation—one of the largest land conservation commitments in history," said Suzann Méthot, CBI's regional director in Québec. "We are pleased to see that the Plan Nord's vision of balancing economic development and conservation, with ecological planning and local partnerships is closer to becoming a reality."

Arcand has set both short and long term goals to achieve his preservation goals.

By 2015 there will be a complete network of protected areas on at least 12% of the area covered by the Plan Nord as well as 12% of the area of the boreal forest blanket will be dedicated to the creation of the protected area.

By 2020 the government will set aside at least 5% of the Plan Nord territory for the purpose of conserving biodiversity, protecting the environment and for non-industrial activity. The plan us for at least 17% of the Plan Nord total surface area be reserved for conservation initiatives.

By 2035, Arcand expects to achieve the objective target of 50% land protection.
Arcand also stated that there would be two major meetings, one in 2020 and another in 2030, to evaluate how the initiatives are shaping up.

Northern Quebec is home to several aboriginal groups and their consent is very important to any initiatives that are being introduced.

"I am very pleased to see a legislative process begin that enables comprehensive ecological planning, done in partnership with Aboriginal communities and enriched by their vision, interests, and aspirations for their territories," said Valérie Courtois, CBI's senior adviser, aboriginal relations.

By Alex Létourneau of Kitco News

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