If there is untold wealth buried deep beneath Anticosti Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, it will remain there, says Quebec’s government.
The island, home to a provincial park, 160,000 white-tailed deer, 400 shipwrecks and roughly 250 people, is thought to harbour billions of dollars of oil and gas reserves accessible by hydraulic fracturing. Development of Anticosti’s resources was a key plank in the re-election platform of the Parti Québecois under Pauline Marois in 2014, but the Liberals under Philippe Couillard, who won a majority, quickly distanced themselves from the development plans.
Since then, Quebec has been trying to extricate itself from agreements signed by the former government giving oil companies exploration rights and committing public money to the venture.
On July 28, 2017, Quebec Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand announced that three companies, Junex Inc., Corridor Resources Inc. and Maurel & Prom, had accepted an offer of $41.4 million in compensation in exchange for their abandonment of their rights, and that discussions were underway with the remaining two companies involved in the venture, Pétrolia Inc. and TransAmerican Energy Inc. With that, Arcand issued an order prohibiting oil and gas exploration and development on Anticosti Island.
“Although we are deeply disappointed with this turn of events, we are still convinced, even more so than in 2014, of the potential and the importance of the Anticosti project for Quebec and for the Company. However, at the request of the Government of Québec, we are pursuing negotiations in good faith. For us, Anticosti is and will always be a project with great economic potential likely to generate significant benefits for Quebec,” said Martin Bélanger, interim president and chief executive officer of Pétrolia, in a statement.
Putting an end to the possibility of hydrocarbon exploration on Anticosti Island should give a boost to the current government’s other ambition for the island: having it accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The plan will first be reviewed by a departmental advisory committee of Parks Canada, which will present its recommendations in 2017 on sites to be included on the updated list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.