The history of this town began in 1929, when a prospector by the name of Léo Springer discovered rich copper, silver and gold deposits. The town was constituted in 1955 under the law governing mining operations. Opemiska Copper Mines, the main employer in those days, was in charge of providing services and municipal organization. Chapais has since diversified its economic activities with the opening of a sawmill in 1974 and by maximizing the productivity of forest biomass with the opening of the first co-generation plant in Québec.
Nestled on the shores of beautiful Quévillon Lake, the town and lake are named after Louis-Amable Quévillon, master carpenter/architect and sculptor who decorated many churches in Quebec. The first part of the town’s name comes from Jean-Baptiste Lebel, from Clova, who, in 1948, opened the first sawmill in Rapide-des-Cèdres, 10 km from the current location of the town. In 1960, lumber company Domtar decided to build a sawmill on a portion of land that would eventually become Lebel-sur-Quévillon in 1965. Its bedrock’s high zinc, copper, silver and gold content allowed the town to diversify its economy, which had been mostly forest-based.
The largest community in northern Québec: Chibougamau (“meeting place”)is situated in hilly terrain on the shores of Lake Gilman, near Doré Lake and Lake Chibougamau. Initially, the name Chibougamau applied to a territory covering over 1600 square kilometres crossed by the fur trade route, a series of waterways linking Lac St-Jean to James Bay. Chibougamau attracted many merchants, explorers and «coureurs des bois» as early as the 17th Century. First founded as a mining village in 1953, Chibougamau obtained its status of municipal corporation in 1954. Today, forestry employs as many people as the mining industry, and Chibougamau has become a centre of services for neighbouring communities.
Founded in 1963, Matagami (“meeting of waters”) is located at the confluence of the Bell, Allard and Waswanipi Rivers flowing into Lake Matagami. In earlier days, the discovery of plentiful fish stocks in the region led to a fishing industry with the Nottaway Fish Company supplying the Hudson Bay Company post. Dr. Robert Bell, a geologist working for the Canadian Government, explored the region in 1895. His discoveries and analysis led to the area’s first mining operations. In 1960, lumber companies set up shop and, later, Matagami’s development was associated with large hydroelectric projects and James Bay Highway construction.