Mining and Resource Development in Northern Canada – by David Kilgour: City of Greater Sudbury Municipal Councillor

David Kilgour is a City of Greater Sudbury municipal councillor. He gave this presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources, which is considering the federal government’s role in the development of the Ring of Fire, on February 16, 2012.

Mister Chair and Honourable Members,

On behalf of Her Worship, Mayor Marianne Matichuk, members of city council and the citizens of the City of Greater Sudbury, I am pleased to be here this morning to discuss mining and resource development in Northern Canada; a subject that we in Sudbury know something about.

Greater Sudbury is an undisputed global centre of mining expertise. Over the past one hundred and thirty years, billions of dollars worth of Nickel, Copper, Platinum, Gold and many other metals have been mined, milled, smelted and refined in our city. Today, even with more than a century of mining activity, an estimated forty billion dollars of mineral reserves have been identified and constant exploration adds to this total every day.

We are the largest geographic municipality in Ontario; within our municipal
boundaries, approximately seven thousand workers are employed directly in mining production and mineral processing while about twice that number work in the mining supply and services industry. Nowhere else in the world will you find this level of mining activity within a fully urban city.

Our community is an outstanding example of where the mining industry has been and where it is going. We lived through the environmental devastation of the antiquated mining and mineral processing methods up to 1960s. People in Sudbury and our constituent communities of Garson, Copper Cliff and Coniston faced the sulphurous fumes of the roast beds and smelters, living in a landscape devoid of vegetation and hostile to the eye.

Over the past forty years, we have reclaimed our environment, planting almost 10 million trees, neutralizing acidic soils and improving lake water quality. Our mining industry partners joined in these efforts and made substantial changes to their processes and facilities. Sulphur emissions have been reduced by as much as ninety percent, dust has been controlled and tailings drainage is now treated and contained. The result is a regional capital of one hundred and sixty thousand people, in a city that contains three hundred and thirty freshwater lakes set amidst the natural beauty that is Northern Ontario.

We are a green and beautiful city but we remain a mining giant. In 2011,
operations in Greater Sudbury produced 106,000 tons of nickel, 164,000 tons of copper, more than 3,000 tons of cobalt, and more than 73,000 ounces of precious metals.

So what can the City of Greater Sudbury offer to your study on mining and
resource development in Northern Canada? We believe that Sudbury’s history and experience provides a unique perspective and significant lessons for new developments like the Ring of Fire, and we believe that the Federal government has an important role to play in advancing these developments and the entire mining and mineral processing industry in the coming decades.

More than ever before, Canada needs a national mining strategy; a policy
framework that recognizes the high-tech, research-driven nature of modern
mining and positions the resource rich areas of our country to realize maximum benefits from the riches under our feet. There is no question that consolidation and expansion of international mining players will continue to have an impact on our resource sector.

It is important that global companies are able to invest in Canada as they are able to access the large amounts of capital required to bring large projects like the Ring of Fire into development and production. At the same time, however, it is critical that the Federal government ensures that Canada’s natural resources are developed in a way that benefits the region and province in which they are found. This balance is challenging to achieve but is critical to the long-term future of our resource sector.

The next ten to twenty years present an historic opportunity for Canada in terms of mineral development. Global demand for commodities will allow continued expansion of our mining sector and new discoveries are being readied for development on a regular basis. The challenge for the federal government is to respond with a regulatory regime that protects the legitimate interests of Canadians while encouraging timely development. At the present time, Canadian mines and mining companies have a technological and political advantage over emerging areas; we need to maintain this momentum by responding aggressively to develop our in situ resources.

As mining opportunities like the Ring of Fire continue to expand in more remote areas of Canada’s North, there is a need for the federal government to work proactively to assist in workforce development. These new projects will require thousands of workers directly and a greater number along the supply chain.
Local communities, particularly First Nations, need active support and capacity building programs in order to realize the potential of these opportunities. At a macro level, federal policies should allow access for foreign workers where necessary but ensure robust local workforce development prior to moving offshore.

The federal government can also assist by helping communities like Greater
Sudbury and our industry partners to counter the misperceptions of modern mineral development. Today’s Canadian mining industry has changed dramatically from the practices of the past and operates in a manner that is sensitive to the environment and to its local host communities. It offers excellent employment opportunities for educated and skilled workers and will provide important economic development opportunities for Northern Canada.

Mining and mineral processing is an industry that has learned the lessons of the past and adapted to current realities. We need to communicate this message in order to foster the workforce expansion required to meet the Canadian industry’s current and future needs. We need to communicate this message in order to create the political will to move projects forward to production with shorter timelines.

To take full advantage of existing and emerging opportunities, strategic
infrastructure investments will be required. The federal government must share in these investments, in partnership with other levels of government and the private sector. This new infrastructure development should be strategic, so that it enhances community and economic development in addition to simply meeting the goals of resource development . The Maley Drive Extension Project in Greater Sudbury is a good example of this type of infrastructure. Another example would be if the transportation corridor for the Ring of Fire also connected with James Bay communities.

As you continue to examine the future of mining in Northern Canada, we urge you to consider both sides of the mining equation: the need to encourage investment and to bring new projects on stream, balanced against the need for reasonable regulation and maximizing benefits to local communities, provinces and Canada as a whole.

Thank you for your time and attention this morning.

Comments are closed.