Bright future for mining [Northern Ontario] – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – September 24, 2011)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper. hcarmichael@thesudburystar.com

For the web’s largest database of articles on the Ring of Fire mining camp, please go to: Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery

“Mining is on the agendas … But, that’s because the southern
Ontario manufacturing economy is in serious trouble. While our
major customer (the United States) will probably be going through
a most troubling economic time the next decade or so, the only part
of the Ontario economy that is doing well is the mining sector.”

Sudol said not having a low-enough electricity rate could be the
deal breaker for Cliffs Natural Resources locating its proposed
chromite processing plant in Ontario. “Right now, power rates in
Manitoba and Quebec are 40- 60% lower than Ontario … There’s no
way they are going to locate that refinery in Ontario.” (Mining
strategist Stan Sudol – RepublicOfMining.com)

AT ISSUE: What is the vision for mining in Greater Sudbury and Northern Ontario?

Chris Hodgson has good reason to believe things are looking up — way up — for Ontario’s mining sector. That’s primarily because the Ontario Mining Association’s recent vision paper and its 10 recommendations about what the mining sector wants addressed by the province is getting serious attention in the Ontario election.

“It’s a big difference,” he said. “In the late 1990s, it was a sunset industry. Now, it may be the key to getting us out of the hole financially.”

A former minister of Northern Development and Mines in the Mike Harris Progressive Conservative government from 1995-99, Hodgson has been president of the OMA for seven years. The association has 70 members who operate 40 mines and employ 20,000 people.

The 11-page vision paper for the future entitled Action Plan for Ontario: Taking Advantage of a Critical Window of Opportunity, calls for “local municipal and First Nation communities to have a greater share of mining from existing levels of taxation.”

As well, the OMA wants “smaller and start-up mines to benefit from the Northern Industrial Electricity Rebate and the recent change in the Global Adjustment calculation.”

The OMA would also like to see an engaged Ontario government working with Ottawa, industry and First Nations to cut approval and permitting times in half.

“I’m very pleased with all the parties,” said

Hodgson, on the fact that mining is in the news this election. “We met with all the parties prior to this and they listened. Some have taken the main recommendations already, some have modified them, but the intent behind them is the same.”

The vision paper makes it clear the provincial government will have to make some very important decisions in the years to come that will have very long-term impacts on the provincial economy.

“The next 20 years present a window of opportunity for a jurisdiction with the geology, the environmental protections, the safety record and the government policies, to build a deliberate and well-planned strategy for new mines,” it said on its opening page.
“Building on our global reputation in mining and our desire to be leaders in the green economy, Ontario’s natural resource potential can be turned into sustainable wealth.”

The vision paper said the province has to find faster ways to get new mines and projects up and running while considering factors such as the environment and safety.

“The existing 20-year window of opportunity can be spent on permitting and approvals, or it can be spent opening mines,” it said. “Our environmental and safety record will not be placed in jeopardy by compressing development timelines and aligning interests to ensure that the province, industry and community all benefit.

“A well-designed process does not entail lessening environmental and safety standards. It means spending fewer resources to administer the process and placing the focus on real environmental protection, rather than bureaucracy.”

Hodgson said the thrust of the vision paper — that the mining sector become a top provincial priority once more — will require a new take-charge emphasis by government employees who deal with the mining sector.

“It’s a big thing,” he said. “If the civil service knows they are on safe ground, if they try and make the province more efficient (for mining), this is important to the government. We are not talking about something that’s shrinking, we are talking about something that is growing.”

That new focus on mining, said Hodgson, should include a “rare earth” elements strategy as Ontario has lots of the very valuable and highly sought deposits of the elements, which include promethium, europium and cerium, but no plan to promote their development.

Also important to the mining industry is lower industrial electricity rates, not just for day-to-day operation, but also to attract investors and companies to develop new mines, said Hodgson.

What also needs to happen in Ontario to improve things for the mining industry is a speeding- up of the environmental assessment process that mine sites go through before they can open.

“The environmental assessment took four years with Victor Mine (the DeBeers Canada diamond mine north of Timmins),” said Hodgson. “Surely, we can speed this up? You need to have compliance with the federal government in the process. You get your approval with the federal environmental assessment. Companies and investors think you have compliance. But, in this country, environmental is provincial. I think we can make the process more efficient.”

The full contents of the vision paper can be found on the OMA website at www.oma.on.ca.

Greater Sudbury native and communications consultant Stan Sudol, who now lives in Toronto and heads The Republic of Mining website (www.republicofmining) devoted to mining, said it’s good news for the mining sector that mining is getting some attention this election.

“Mining is on the agendas,” he said. “But, that’s because the southern Ontario manufacturing economy is in serious trouble. While our major customer (the United States) will probably be going through a most troubling economic time the next decade or so, it’s the only part of the Ontario economy that is doing well is the mining sector.”

If the McGuinty Liberals get re-elected, however, a big hurdle will still remain for the sector, said Sudol.

“The Northern MPPs, Rick Bartolucci and Mike Gravelle, are very pro-mining, but the premier’s inner chamber still has a very strong green agenda,” he said. “My sense is the premier is still rather lukewarm to the mining industry.”

Sudol said not having a low-enough electricity rate could be the deal breaker for Cliffs Natural Resources locating its proposed chromite processing plant in Ontario.

“Right now, power rates in Manitoba and Quebec are 40- 60% lower than Ontario,” he said. “There’s no way they are going to locate that refinery in Ontario.”

Sudol said the new government should also take a hard look at the Far North Act that First Nations in the North, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the mining companies all reject, the Act looks to turn an area almost the size of Great Britain into parkland, he said.

“It’s a green agenda to turn half the territory in the Far North into parks,” said Sudol. “It’s a vast expanse. By some fluke, we might put another Sudbury Basin or Ring of Fire in it.”

While southern Ontarians are not aware of the economic impact of mining like Northerners are, said Sudol, one just has to consider that of the 171 First Nation mining development agreements with junior and senior mining companies across Canada, some 55 are in Northern Ontario and providing many badly needed jobs in remote areas.

Jean-Charles Cachon, a commerce and administration professor at Laurentian University, said that what the Ontario mining industry needs is for the province to put more money into infrastructure, which would produce a better working environment for mining companies.

“To me, the big thing is infrastructure, namely do whatever is needed to help industry become more competitive,” he said. “Roads are an ongoing problem and continue to be. Of course, there’s the four-laning of Highway 69, but any expressway that will move things faster will help.”

For the rest of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3311178

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