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Quebec Premier Jean Charest walks form question period toward his office Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)
Quebec Premier Jean Charest walks form question period toward his office Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Charest to unveil $10-billion investment in northern Quebec Add to ...

Quebec Premier Jean Charest will unveil nearly $10-billion in investments in Quebec's vast northern territory, according to media reports.

He is expected to provide details of mining, hydroelectric, eco-tourism and infrastructure projects at a press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon in Lévis, Que.

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The "Plan Nord" is the cornerstone of the Liberal economic platform, and it's the 21st-century version of the James Bay project that dominated economic policy in the 1970s and 1980s.

The most concrete outline is expected to be 11 mining projects, including plans for gold, nickel, diamond and uranium mines.

"We are in the midst of a mining boom that will transform Quebec's economy," André Lavoie, spokesman for the Quebec Mining Association, told the TVA television network.

The new mines are expected to create an estimated 10,000 new jobs. Most of the investments will come from the private sector, but Quebec will provide significant funds through investment arms such as Investissement Québec.

The province's mineral-rich north is twice the size of France but there is very little access so the government will invest billions in infrastructure projects, including new roads, ports and parks.

In its most recent budget, Quebec set aside $1.6-billion for northern infrastructure, including building a road from Chibougamau to the Otish Mountains, where there are significant diamond reserves, and creating a deep-water port in the Inuit community of Kuujjuarapik.

Mr. Charest is also expected to announce plans to expand the province's hydroelectric network into new parts of the North and to laud the potential for eco-tourism.

To counter public perceptions that the new investments will pilfer the unspoiled North, the Premier will also announce that 50 per cent of the territory will be protected from any development and that significant ecological reserves will be created.

Senior Inuit leaders will also be present to give their blessing to the grand plans in their traditional territories.

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