10/10/2011 01:48 EDT | Updated 12/10/2011 05:12 EST

Conservation plan for northern Quebec still needs to be worked out: Charest

BARCELONA, Spain - Quebec Premier Jean Charest says he hasn't hammered out the details of a plan to environmentally protect half the territory in the province's north.

Speaking in Barcelona today, Charest told reporters his goal of preserving half the area north of the 49th parallel is ambitious and still somewhat rough.

The premier, who is in Spain promoting his Plan Nord development project, wouldn't rule out having forestry work in the protected zone.

The idea was brought up last week by Leopold Gaudreau, the province's deputy minister of environment.

But Charest shut the door on any mining operations in the area, a possibility raised last week by his environment minister, Pierre Arcand.

The Plan Nord project was announced in May and promises environmentally sustainable development for northern Quebec.

At the time, Charest deemed it "one of the most important sustainable projects for the world" and said it would create 500,000 jobs over 25 years.

In a presentation to a Catalan business crowd Monday, Charest talked up the project, citing support from the International Boreal Conservation Campaign.

Earlier this year, the group called the development plan "a bold new model for conservation of the boreal forest" and said it could leave a lasting legacy for Canada.

But the group is calling out the province for what it sees as an abrupt change of course on the issue, and recently wrote the premier to insist he ban forestry operations in the protected zone.