Metal prices have been falling since early 2011. China growth slows and Europe falters. Corporate finance exploration is in neutral and large mining companies are slowing their ardor. That is, some say, the end of the extraordinary "supercycle" that has pushed upward the resources for 10 years.
Initiated to take advantage of high prices of resources, the Northern Plan is well underway and projects are multiplying. But what will it price, these foundations that support the building? Here and elsewhere, the analyzes differ.
"We must remember that a rising cycle is always followed by a downward cycle, said Gaétan Morin, Executive Vice President, Investments of the Solidarity Fund QFL. The supercycle is something in my past. "
"There will be delays in projects. Slowdowns in investment, we have had in the past and will continue to have, "he adds.
The Deputy Chief Economist of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, Yanick Desnoyers, believes instead that the supercycle will continue. "There is a slowdown in demand in 2012, but people have their noses glued to the screen. The growth will strengthen in the world, I'm not too worried about the demand side. "
Quebec is not the territory that offers the lowest production costs in the world. That the supercycle is finished or not, we must keep prices high enough to ensure a profitable mining development in the North.
The Northern Plan is based first and foremost on the iron of the Labrador Trough. This is where major projects are the most numerous, and this is where the major Asian groups commit hundreds of millions and soon billions. According to Carlos Leitao, chief economist at Laurentian Bank, demand for iron will remain fairly robust, although it may be some weaknesses in the coming years. "In the long term, countries like China and India will continue to industrialize." This does not prevent many analysts anticipate a price decline.
Besides iron, analysis of individual price forecasts, resource by resource, nonetheless paint a picture not so bleak prospects of mining in the long term, beyond the next few weeks or months (see boxes).
Industrial metals like copper, nickel and zinc, intimately linked to economic growth, should continue to be in demand, advance Benedict Longchamps, an economist at the Quebec Mining Association. "The main argument is the growing middle class in emerging countries," he says. According to the OECD, its size will double by 2020 (from 1 to 2 billion) and Asia alone, she will be multiplied by six by 2030 (from 500 to 3000 million).
This evolution goes hand in hand with urbanization, the demand for goods and services and infrastructure development, therefore a strong demand for metals.
According to Yanick Desnoyers, profit margins in the mining sector will have ups and downs, but strong demand convinced him that "the likelihood that prices fall below production costs are very low."
Less vulnerable than before
It remains difficult to accurately predict the level of prices in the long term metal prices. Whatever happens, Gaétan Morin, who believes that the trend is downward, remains optimistic. He says that Quebec is much less vulnerable than before to a downward cycle due to the diversification of substances and potentially exploitable unearthed on the northern territory.
While the construction world is weakening and hold, affecting base metals, there are other metals that are not necessarily synchronized with the sector, such as lithium or rare earths. "Collectively, we managed to diversify our mineral base," he enthuses stressing the contribution of SIDEX, a fund established in 2001 by the Quebec government and the Fund QFL precisely to encourage diversification.