“How do we use our resources to create value here?” Economy and Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon asks. “If it’s (offering) partial ownership for any player, why not?”

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Quebec Economy and Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon is not closing the door to offering minerals, such as lithium, to attract new players in the battery sector.

Radio-Canada reported last week the government is ready to sell shares it holds in the company Nemaska Lithium to convince Honda to choose Quebec for the construction of a cathode factory.

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Questioned Tuesday during a news briefing in Montreal, Fitzgibbon refrained from commenting directly on the issue, but mentioned the possibility of offering minerals to attract manufacturers of electric vehicles.

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“In the world, what we are seeing is a search for minerals. Car companies, for example, are concerned about access to lithium, graphite, sodium, phosphate, nickel. So it’s certain that in Quebec, we have the privilege of having these resources” and “Quebec has many deposits of this type of mineral,” the minister first explained, adding: “How do we use our resources to create value here? So if it’s (offering) partial ownership for any player, why not?”

Nemaska Lithium is about to open a lithium mine, the Whabouchi mine, in the Cree territory of the Eeyou Istchee Baie-James region in northern Quebec. Nemaska Lithium also has a production plant in Bécancour and the province has 50 per cent of the company’s shares.

During a speech to the Canadian Club of Montreal on Tuesday, Fitzgibbon congratulated his government for having invested “massively in the battery sector” with the aim of creating “an integrated sector.”

He named mining companies Nemaska Lithium and Sayona, manufacturers of battery components such as GM-POSCO, Ford-EcoPro BM, the cell manufacturer Northvolt and vehicle manufacturers such as Lion Electric.

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“This is the first time in the history of Quebec that we can take resources and keep them here and create wealth,” he said.

The government has announced $16 billion in investments so far in the battery sector, “but I am working with Investissement Québec on other projects,” Fitzgibbon said.

Union protest

The minister’s conference was delayed by a union demonstration.

Before Fitzgibbon took the stage, several dozen demonstrators noisily entered the hall of the Palais des congrès where the event was taking place.

Equipped with megaphones, whistles and musical instruments, the demonstrators, who brandished banners of the Syndicat des professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ) and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), remained on site for nearly 30 minutes.

The demonstrators went to the table where Fitzgibbon was sitting and he left the room for about 15 minutes.

There was no intervention from police or security personnel and the demonstrators ended up leaving without being escorted.

About 26,000 members of the SPGQ have still not reached an agreement on a new contract with Quebec. These include computer analysts, inspectors, accountants and biologists.

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