1971-1976 | 1977-1982 | 1983-1986 | 1987-1994 | 1995-1997 | 1998-2003 |2004-2007

Constitution and subject

“The development of James Bay is the key to Quebec’s economic progress, it is also the key to social progress and political stability: it is the future of Quebec.” This quote is taken from a speech Premier Robert Bourassa delivered on April 30, 1971, to announce the launch of the proposed hydroelectric development of James Bay.

To complete the overall development of this territory, on July 14, 1971, the Quebec National Assembly adopted the Loi sur le développement de la région de la Baie James, the law that would create the Société de développement de la Baie-James (SDBJ).

Article 4 of this law states that the primary mandate of the SDBJ is “to foster the development and exploitation of natural resources in the territory […], to implement this development and exploitation in accordance with the law, and to administer and manage this territory in order to promote development by the SDBJ, its subsidiaries and other economic and industrial partners, giving priority to the interests of Quebecers,” while ensuring the protection of the environment and preventing pollution.

Since its creation, the Company has followed the evolution of the regional context. That is why it has undergone several revisions of its activities over the years. Its current mission is to promote the economic development, improvement and exploitation of natural resources other than hydroelectric resources.

Here are the important events from various periods of the Company’s existence:

1971 to 1976: accelerated development of the SDBJ

Initially, the specific role of the SDBJ was to:

Two subsidiaries were created in the SDBJ’s first months:

The SDBJ quickly began constructing several roads and airports, as well as the establishment of municipal structures needed to administer the territory. The construction of a road to James Bay was one of the first challenges for the SDBJ. The problems were daunting because the Company had only fifteen months to complete project studies, establish the right of way and issue tenders, while the contractors had only 450 days to build this 720-kilometre road. At the end of 1973, the James Bay highway was built. Paving was completed in 1975 and 1976.

In 1973 and 1974, the construction of La Grande-Rivière airport, located at the north end of James Bay highway, added an indispensable tool for development. This public airport has a paved runway that is 1,981 metres long and 45 metres wide. It’s the most northern airport accessible by paved road in the province of Quebec.

Infrastructure construction in Radisson occurred during this same period. There are services similar to other municipalities, including a church, school, community centre, swimming pool, gymnasium, hotel, etc.

Apart from the energy potential, which was behind the decision to develop this land, the mining sector was the subject of SDBJ efforts from the very beginning. In fact, the mining potential of the James Bay territory is still unknown at this time. A great deal of work will be done by the SDBJ to better understand the territory’s mineral potential. The strategy is founded on a compilation of available geological information, on a selection of priority exploration zones, particularly in regions that will be flooded and close to infrastructures, and on aerial magnetic, radiometric and geochemical surveys. These more general studies have quickly lead to more detailed exploration and on participation agreements with private and public companies. That’s why, in 1974, an 80% share of exploration expenditures by the SDBJ was assigned to co-projects with private enterprise.

The signing of the Convention de la Baie-James et du Nord québécois in 1975 was an important event for the SDBJ. The agreement provides for the establishment of an SDBJ subsidiary, the Société de développement autochtone de la Baie-James (SODAB), to enable Native people to participate in developing the territory. This agreement was ratified by the National Assembly and the Aboriginal people in 1976.

On November 11, 1975, the SDBJ also concluded a bilateral agreement with the Grand Council of the Crees, in which the parties established “[…] the principles of cooperation in the fields of tourism, roads maintenance, mining, logging, fuel distribution and labour.”

Another subsidiary was established in 1975: the Société de tourisme de la Baie-James (SOTOUR). Its original mandate was to plan and eventually manage and monitor tourism in the territory. This subsidiary completed the construction of the Radisson Inn in May 1977.

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1977 to 1982: reduced activity and a new government direction

On March 2, 1977, the ministère des Finances du Québec stopped subscribing to the share capital of the SDBJ. At that time, the share capital issued and paid totalled $60 million.

On June 28, 1978, in accordance with the Convention de la Baie-James et du Nord québécois, the Quebec government created the Conseil régional de zone(CRZ), exercising the powers of the Municipalité de Baie-James on category II lands. On September 6, 1978, the government established the Société de développement autochtone de la Baie-James. In addition, on January 31, 1978, the SDBJ, SEBJ, Hydro-Quebec and the Canadian and Quebec governments signed the Convention du Nord-Est québécois with the Naskapi indian band of Schefferville.

The Loi sur le développement de la région de la Baie James was amended in 1978 to transfer the SEBJ and the mandate to develop and exploit hydroelectric resources to Hydro-Quebec.

Despite the end to the subscription of its share capital, the SDBJ managed to maintain its investment in mineral exploration, notably through the creation of the limited partnership “Exploration SDBJ 1980,” which provided nearly $12 million in new capital mainly for mining exploration.

With the completion of planned hydroelectric development, in-depth reflection on the SDBJ’s role began in 1978. The SDBJ then completed the draft of a five-year development and management plan. This plan proposed to amend the law establishing the SDBJ in order to transform it into a new northern Quebec development company with a mandate adapted to the evolution of the north since 1971.

It was presented in November 1981 to the ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources du Québec. According to the minister, “the period of major infrastructure construction in the territory is complete, the responsibilities of development could be more effectively supported by existing sectorial agencies, namely the ministries or other government corporations.” The development plan was not ratified and the ministre de l’Énergie et des Ressources submitted several proposals to the government. Those concerning the integration of the SDBJ’s mining assets to the SOQUEM and the transfer of its forestry assets to REXFOR were retained by the government.

Mining exploration expenses incurred by the SDBJ since its inception totalled more than $17 million at the end of 1982, and the expenditures incurred by its partners amounted to approximately $60 million. At the end of 1982, the SDBJ considerably reduced its exploration staff to concentrate its remaining staff on development projects. It also stopped implementing new exploration projects. There followed a period of demobilization for the SDBJ.

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1983 to 1986: the demobilization of the SDBJ

During this period, the SDBJ proceeded with accounting depreciation and write-offs in order to realize new government guidelines. They totalled $68.9 million and were related to development costs (infrastructure, regional development and environmental protection), to devaluation of mining assets to reflect the possible sale of these assets (Somine et Fer Albanel limitée), as well as writing off mining assets as a result of the abandonment of projects.

On October 17, 1984, the Conseil des ministres adopted a decision that maintained the existence of the SDBJ in its logistics role for a period of two years.

Demobilization continued in 1985 with the closure of the SDBJ office in Montreal and the abolition of all permanent posts. The SDBJ sold its interest in Sotel inc. to its co-shareholder Télébec for one dollar. In addition, the SDBJ turned over its fuel distribution activities to SODAB.

The Radisson Inn was operated by SOTOUR until 1984, and from 1985 to 1993, was given a lease-purchase option.

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1987 to 1994: a new life

The streamlining of the SDBJ ended in 1987. The Company produced two orientation documents in 1987, including an intervention plan. In particular, it increased its involvement in the mining sector, through an exchange of its shares in Ressources du Lac Meston with shares in Ressources Campbell ltée., under the merger of the two companies. Moreover, a protocol was concluded with the SEBJ and Hydro-Quebec whereby SDBJ would assure the management and maintenance of the James Bay highway, the Chisasibi Road and La Grande-Rivière airport.

On May 10, 1989, the Conseil des ministres decided to confirm the work of SDBJ as a service structure and organization of regional economic development for the territory as described in the law.

In 1990, the SDBJ adopted a new development plan for the period from 1991 to 1996, and reorganized its operations around three service areas: Matagami, Radisson and Chibougamau.

The construction of a new terminal at La Grande-Rivière airport was completed in July 1991. Hydro-Quebec contributed $3,750,000, and Transport Canada contributed $3,000,000.

A repairs program for the James Bay highway was adopted in 1991. A budget of $25.7 million was granted for the next five years to renovate this road infrastructure. The SEBJ and Hydro-Quebec were the donors for this project.

In 1992, the Quebec government gave the SDBJ the responsibility of the financial aspects associated with constructing the route du Nord, with an estimated cost of $73,000,000. The federal government, the government of Quebec and Hydro-Quebec were the main donors on the project, which was completed in September 1993.

In 1992, the SDBJ took an active role in an agreement between Ressources MSV inc. and Westminer Canada Ltd. to revive the Copper Rand and Portage mines. This involvement helped maintain 300 jobs in Chibougamau.

In 1994, the SDBJ resumed responsibility for the management of the Radisson Inn.

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1995 to 1997: additional management mandates and a new period of reflection

In 1995, an agreement is signed with the ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec (MRNF) in which the SDBJ assumed management of the maintenance of the route du Nord (258 km). In May 1996, the SDBJ was also entrusted to manage maintenance of the roads in Wemindji and Eastmain. In 1997, Hydro-Quebec awarded the SDBJ management of the Transtaïga highway and the Fontanges airport.

With these new responsibilities, the SDBJ maintained 1,800 km of roads or 60% of the territory’s road network.

In 1995, the MRNF, on the recommendation of the SDBJ, formed a strategic committee on the territory’s road and airport infrastructure. This committee was mandated to propose a new approach to funding the maintenance and operations of the territory’s transportation infrastructure.

In September 1995, the Conseil des ministres decided on a mandate concerning the political-administrative organization of the northern Quebec region. One of the assigned components was to examine the possibility of refocusing the SDBJ’s mandate on economic development and to detach its links with the municipalité de Baie-James.

On March 25, 1996, the MRNF received the strategic committee’s report on roads and airports. In the medium term, the report aimed to create a regional transportation body that would assure the integrated management and financing of the territory’s transportation infrastructure. On March 19, 1997, the Conseil des ministres decreed the formation of an inter-ministerial committee to review the whole issue of maintenance of road infrastructure in the area and to define a plan for financing.

In 1997, under the Airports Capital Assistance Program established by Transport Canada, the SDBJ obtained $2,880,086 in financial aid to repair the airport runway and some safety equipment. A financial contribution from Hydro-Quebec was also obtained, taking the investment to $3,362,944.

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1998 to 2003: updating of the law and additional financial resources

As part of the 1998-1999 Budget Speech, the Quebec Finance Minister announced that the SDBJ would now act as a partner in development projects and economic diversification within its territory and will have access to venture capital to form an investment fund. As such, a sum of $40,000,000 of capital shares would be paid according to the investment needs of the SDBJ.

In May 1998, the Conseil des ministres approved, in principle, the guidelines refocusing the SDBJ’s mandate regrouped into four components: economic development, transportation infrastructure management, and the reconciliation between the communities and the municipal organization.

The new law amending the Loi sur le développement de la région de la Baie James was sanctioned on December 13, 1999. These legislative changes were the result of a number of consultations and dialogues on northern Quebec, and particularly the region of James Bay. These included the Commission parlementaire sur le développement de la région Nord-du-Québec, held in the fall of 1998, and the Entente-cadre de développement de la région Nord-du-Québec (James Bay sector).

Before this change, the SDBJ’s mission was to foster the development and exploitation of natural resources other than hydropower. The government decided to reinforce the SDBJ’s mission with respect to economic development. Thus, the mission now is to promote economic development, improvement and exploitation of natural resources other than hydroelectric resources.

The revision concerns the rules for the composition of the Board and its operating procedures, financing of the Company and its rules for the supervision and control.

On  September 27, 2000, the Quebec government promulgated the law, again amending the new Loi sur le développement de la région de la Baie James, and in November 2000 a government decree defined the procedures to be followed regarding its economic development investments. Thus, the SDBJ was authorized to make loans or other financial commitments, as well as to acquire shares under certain conditions.

In March 2000, Noranda Inc. discovered the Perseverance deposit, a high zinc deposit on a mining property near the town of Matagami. This property was managed under a joint venture agreement between Noranda inc. and the SDBJ under which Noranda inc. holds 90% and the SDBJ has a 10% right of participation after a positive feasibility study. The study was initiated in 2000.

In December 2001, the government proceeded to adopt the new Loi sur le développement et l’organisation municipale de la région de la Baie James. The legislative changes updated the law on the “municipal” front and ensured that the SDBJ board of directors didn’t act as a substitute for the municipal council of the MBJ.

In March 2002, the government approved the SDBJ’s 2001-2004 development plan. This plan set objectives and strategic goals in every area where the SDBJ intervened, while promoting management by results due to given performance indicators.

In 2002, the SDBJ began the renovation of the Radisson Inn. The investment would total $1,000,000 and the work would be completed in 2003.

In February 2002, the Grand Council of the Crees and the Quebec government concluded a new agreement, La Paix des Braves (the peace of the braves). The agreement specified, among other things, that Quebec’s commitment under theConvention de la Baie-James et du Nord québécois (CBJNQ) and related economic and community development of the Crees will be the responsibility of the Cree, including the overall funding of the agreement. In addition, the agreement specified that the SDBJ must complete negotiations with the Cree Regional Authority (CRA) including the updating of the 1975 convention (bilateral agreement).

With La Paix des Braves, the government agreed to appoint an SDBJ board member from the Crees and in consultation with the CRA. In February 2004, the government appointed Mr. Robert Kitchen, Waswanipi Band Council chief, to the board of the SDBJ for a term of three years.

During the summer of 2003, the government changed its approach regarding the funding of Crown corporations from venture capital funds and stopped them. Thus, the SDBJ no longer benefited from its government share capital to achieve its investments. The final purchase was made on November 30, 2002, and at that moment, a total of $9,825,000 was invested in SDBJ capital stock in return for the investments it made in economic development.

In 2003, the SDBJ adopted a separate investment policy to stimulate and support mineral exploration in the James Bay territory. The objectives of this policy were to contribute to the renewal of mineral resources through the discovery of new deposits, to contribute to the sustainability of the mining industry and to increase the total investment in mining exploration in the James Bay territory.

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2004 to 2007: a reassessment of the SDBJ

In May 2004, the President of the Quebec Treasury Board and minister responsible for government administration, Mrs. Monique Jérôme-Forget, made public the 2004-2007 Quebec Modernization Plan. The plan provided for a systematic reassessment of all government agencies by the end of 2007, 60 organizations in 2004, including the SDBJ.

In June 2004, an agreement in principle with Hydro-Quebec, in which it agreed to acquire the Pierre Radisson complex and Radisson Inn from the SDBJ.

On May 5, 2005, the SDBJ Board of Directors adopted the 2005-2007 Development Plan. This plan could not be subject to government approval because on May 17, 2005, Mrs. Monique Jérôme-Forget made public the Working Group report and confirmed that the government would quickly implement the report’s recommendations. It was the ministre des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, who had the responsibility to implement those recommendations, as follows:

In order to take into account regional concerns in the implementation of this decision, the ministre des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec put a coordinating committee in place by October 7, 2005. The minister asked the committee to develop an optimal scenario for divestiture of the SDBJ that would meet regional and government objectives.

In June 2006, the SDBJ proceeded with the sale of the interest it held in the Perseverance deposit in favour of the Xstrata mine. The profit generated by the sale of this asset totalled $6.5 million.

In June 2006, the coordinating committee recommended the government maintain the status of a Crown corporation for the SDBJ and to promote a more enhanced version of its operation to increase the role of regional stakeholders. In fact, though the role of the SDBJ in developing the James Bay territory had changed over time, the Company still represented an important development tool for the territory. In addition, the maintenance of its obligations and commitments under the CBJNQ to the benefit of local and regional communities was an important issue for the territory. At the end of 2006, the Government accepted the recommendations.

In 2007, the SDBJ began its work to complete its 2008-2010 development plan.

In December 2007, the SDBJ concluded the transaction in which it sold the Pierre Radisson complex and Radisson Inn to Hydro-Quebec.

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