Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P. Canadian Minister of Natural Resources PDAC Speech – (March 5, 2012 – Toronto, Canada)

(L to R)Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P. federal Minister of Natural Resources, Ross Gallinger, Executive Director, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

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Introduction 

Thanks very much, Scott (Scott Jobin-Bevans, President of PDAC), and thanks to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada for the opportunity to be part of this great event. 

I also want to thank Alex Jacobs, elder and member of the Ojibway First Nation of Whitefish Lake, for being here. 

It is a pleasure to be here, and to welcome all of our visitors to Toronto and to Canada. 

I have to congratulate P-DAC for putting together yet another outstanding program. When P-DAC says this is “where the world’s mineral industry meets,” it’s not exaggerating.

P-DAC is the premier event of its kind in the world. The 2011 convention attracted over 1,000 exhibitors and nearly 28,000 attendees, including 1,500 students and 7,000 international delegates from 120 countries.

Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P. federal Minister of Natural Resources tours PDAC convention

 

There’s a good reason that the world’s mineral industry meets in Canada. Canada is blessed with great geology, competitive tax rates, a stable political system and a non-discriminatory regulatory regime. 

Over the next 30 years, the world will need to extract more resources to meet the demands of the growing middle classes — and Canada will continue to be a reliable global supplier of these resources, as it has in the past. 

Our Government is focused on responsible development of Canada’s natural resources to create jobs and economic growth as well as future prosperity to come. 

We have over a hundred years of mining experience, and we’ve been studying our landmass’ geology for even longer, since 1842 to be exact. 

It is this experience in the natural resource sectors that is the cornerstone of Canada’s bid to host the 2020 International Geological Congress in Vancouver. 

Today, I’d like to talk about Canada’s leadership in the natural resource sectors, as we launch the largest and most dynamic exploration and mining convention in the world. 

Canada’s mining and exploration industry 

There are over 200 active mines in Canada, producing more than 60 minerals and metals. 

We are the world’s number-one producer of potash. We rank in the top five in aluminium, cadmium, cobalt, diamonds, nickel, platinum group metals, salt, titanium concentrate, tungsten and zinc. 

With recent discoveries in the region that we now call the Ring of Fire, in northern Ontario, it’s a good bet we’ll soon be a major producer of chromite as well.

As of 2010, Canadian mining and exploration companies are active in more than 100 countries around the world, with 826 mining companies having total assets worth over $129 billion outside Canada. 

Our global presence does not just generate wealth for us. It also creates value for the countries in which we do business and the communities that host our companies, demonstrating how resource development can improve the quality of life of people around the world. 

Canadians are experts in all areas of mining — we’re at the leading edge of everything from mine design, extraction, and processing to mine closure and rehabilitation. 

With the help of Canada’s stock exchanges, Canadian-listed companies are responsible for more than half of all global equity raised for mineral development. 

Almost 60% of the world’s publicly-listed mining companies list in Canada including over 1,200 junior mining companies. 

Canadian companies account for 40% of the world’s exploration expenditures. And that number is rising, setting the stage for strong growth in Canada’s mining sector. Their exploration expenditures are expected to top $4.2 billion in 2012. 

The exploration and mining industry has been a cornerstone of the Canadian economy for generations, shaping our national identity with benefits in all regions. 

Exploration, mining and processing alone provide jobs for approximately 132,000 people in Ontario, and more than 320,000 people across the country, not counting related support sectors. 

Mining is also an important employer of Aboriginal people in Canada, particularly in northern communities. 

In 2010, mineral production accounted for more than $35 billion of Canada’s GDP, and $18 billion of our trade surplus. 

According to Statistics Canada, public and private organizations will invest more than $394 billion in construction, and in machinery and equipment this year. That’s an increase of more than six percent over last year — and more than half that expected increase is as a result of higher investment intentions in the mining and oil and gas sectors. 

Those kinds of numbers are giving Canadians a new appreciation for the importance of our mining and other resource industries. Every year, the mining industry is providing billions of dollars in revenue to Canadian governments so they may continue to provide world-class health, education and social programs. 

Just in terms of Ontario, mining activities generated $180 million for the province in 2011. 

Recent public opinion research shows a majority of Canadians see our natural resources as an important contributor to our long-term prosperity. The research also shows overwhelming support for the efforts our government is making to diversify the markets for Canada’s resources.

Canadian mining companies have assets totalling some $62 billion in Central and South America and another $27 billion in Africa and growing. 

The opportunity to diversify is there.

I was with the Prime Minister in China last month. I can tell you the appetite for natural resources in that country is big and getting bigger all the time — and we are committed to seeing that Canadian resource companies have the opportunity to compete in that market. 

While we were in China, the Prime Minister announced the conclusion of negotiations toward the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, or FIPA. Once implemented, this agreement will provide a more stable and secure environment for investors on both sides of the Pacific. 

We also announced the successful completion of negotiations between Canada and China on an agreement that will facilitate increased exports of Canadian uranium to China — a country that is expected to bring more than 100 new power reactors online within the next 20 years. 

GoC commitment to leadership 

That kind of potential helps to explain our Government’s commitment to the success of our resource industries — and to ensuring Canadians continue to benefit from the opportunities our rich natural legacy has provided. 

The Province of Quebec announced the Plan Nord strategy last May. It is an $80-billion, 25-year plan, to integrate the development of northern Quebec’s vast resource potential in an environmentally sustainable manner, while improving the socio-economic conditions of the province’s northern residents.

The Quebec government expects that these investments will create an estimated 20,000 jobs per year, generate an estimated $14 billion in revenue, and contribute $162 billion to the province’s gross domestic product. 

Over the next five years, partly through the Fonds Plan Nord, Quebec plans to spend $2.1 billion. 

This includes $821 million for transportation infrastructure such as roads and airports, $370 million for social infrastructure like housing, health and education facilities, $382 million in the improvement of social services, and $500 million in project implementation funding. 

So yes, the opportunities continue to grow across Canada, but also in the North.  

The Northwest Territories are well on the way to becoming the third-largest producer of diamonds in the world. 

In the Yukon, what many are calling a New Klondike Gold Rush is underway.

Last year, over 114,000 mineral claims were staked in the Yukon. There are now more than a quarter of a million claims up there — considerably more than the 17,000 at height of the first Gold Rush back in 1898. 

Our $100 million GEM program — the Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals initiative — is about to enter its fourth field season. The program is modernizing geological methods and techniques to map Canada’s northern resource potential. 

So far, GEM has produced 28 regional geophysical surveys, and 473 open file releases of new geoscience maps and data have been published on the Natural Resources Canada website ― all available online at no cost, to anyone. 

We’ve identified areas of high potential for not only gold, but nickel, platinum group elements, rare metals, base metals and diamonds. GEM data is not just fuelling current exploration activity, it is laying a robust, modern foundation for years of future exploration, development, and land use planning. 

GEM also represents a key element of our Government’s Northern Strategy. We are taking steps to ensure Aboriginal communities and all northerners understand the results of our geophysical surveys so they can use this information to make wise economic development decisions that will benefit them.

GEM is one of several programs featured at the Natural Resources Canada booth in the trade show here at PDAC 2012. I encourage you to stop by and inquire about the extensive collection of maps and data the program has generated so far. 

We’re also working with industry, academia, and provincial and territorial geological surveys to develop new ways of exploring for deeper mineral deposits — through our Targeted Geoscience Initiative, or TGI. 

We know that discovery of new deeply-buried mineral deposits will be key to ensuring the mining industry’s long-term prosperity — but exploration for these deposits entails significant financial risk. Our $25-million investment in TGI is supporting the development of next-generation geoscience knowledge and techniques needed to reduce the risk and enable more effective exploration for these deposits. 

Anytime we talk about resource exploration and development, in the North or anywhere else, we have to consider sustainable development. 

Canada’s mining and exploration sector is recognized as a leader in environmental and social responsibility. Problems arise from time to time but we take these problems seriously. 

That’s why the Government of Canada launched a corporate social responsibility strategy to support our companies when operating abroad. 

It’s also why we helped establish the Intergovernmental Forum for Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development, which helps build the capacity of governments in 46 countries around the world to manage their resource wealth responsibly. 

We also recently made a commitment to develop the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development to support initiatives in developing countries that promote sustainable economic growth, create jobs and reduce long-term poverty.

I have to congratulate the industry for the support it’s shown for these initiatives but also its engagement in developing technologies and processes that help ensure mining remains one of the safest and most responsible industries in the world.   

Together, we are working to reduce costs and increase productivity and reduce environmental footprints, through programs such as the Green Mining Initiative. 

This kind of collaboration is promising some truly innovative developments. For example, we are looking at heat as an alternative to explosives to free minerals from rock. This could dramatically reduce the amount of waste that has to be hauled to the surface. 

Our investments in research and development are supporting the competitiveness of Canada’s industry in other ways. Natural Resources Canada’s mining labs have developed an enhanced leaching process for recovering precious metals. Companies using this new process have reportedly experienced productivity gains generating value of $28 million. 

Our researchers have also worked with industry partners and the Canada Mining Innovation Council to demonstrate the benefits of Ventilation on Demand. For a large underground mine, this type of automated ventilation system could save as much as $4 million a year in energy costs. 

Canadian companies can bring this know-how to mining sectors in Canada and around the world. 

Regulatory modernization 

Investing in innovative technologies, in geosciences, in social and environmental responsibility, combined with our efforts to diversify the markets for our resources with China, Japan, India, Russia, and Brazil, for example — all are essential to the long-term prosperity and growth of Canada’s mining and exploration industries.

At the same time, neither the industry nor Canadians will realize the full benefit of our progress in these areas if we cannot attract the investment we need to develop our resources. 

This has been a focus for our Government from the beginning — putting in place the fundamentals that are the foundation for long-term growth, prosperity and economic resilience. 

We’ve lowered personal and corporate taxes. We’ve payed down debt and are reining in spending. We’re cutting red tape, investing in research and development, and promoting free trade. 

For mining in particular, a new study by my department has found that Canada’s tax regimes are the most competitive in the world.

As well, Canada’s tax regimes do not penalize marginally profitable projects, while many others do — an important consideration for a business that must often contend with the cyclical nature of commodity markets. 

The results of our approach speak for themselves. 

Forbes Magazine says Canada is now the best country in the world in which to do business. 

And according to the Fraser Institute, several Canadian provinces and territories are consistently ranked as being the most attractive places in the world to invest exploration dollars.

Both the IMF and the OECD predict Canada’s economic growth will be among the best this year and next. 

But there is more to do. We cannot expect our competitors to concede anything. 

The competition for investment is as tough as the competition for any other commodity. Investors want predictability, they want low-risk, and they want to see returns sooner rather than later. 

That’s why our Government will take action to streamline the approval process for major economic projects across Canada. 

We have to be as innovative in our approach to regulation as we are with science and technology development. 

We’re doing that. Since we established the Major Projects Management Office in 2008, the average time for federal regulatory approval of major projects has been reduced by more than half — from more than four years to less than two. 

We’re exploring new approaches. In B.C., for example, we’ve delegated the environmental assessment of Teck’s Line Creek Coal Mine Expansion to the province. By integrating the federal and provincial processes, we’re eliminating duplication and saving time and money, without compromising the quality of the review. 

In Budget 2010, we made targeted changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. As a result, federal assessments of major projects such as Donkin coal in Nova Scotia and Eagle’s Nest Metal in Ontario are starting months earlier, and are subject to regulated timelines. 

We can do more. Our ultimate goal is one project, one review, completed in a clearly defined time period. 

This does not mean lowering our environmental standards. Economic growth and environmental responsibility are not mutually exclusive.

Our goal is to deliver more predictable and timely reviews and reduce regulatory burden while improving environmental protection and supporting meaningful Aboriginal consultation. 

In order to do that, we need to focus our resources where it matters most, that is, on larger projects that potentially have the most environmental impact. 

Furthermore, clear timelines from beginning to end of the regulatory process are needed to improve the predictability of the regulatory environment and further support investment and planning decisions.

I’m happy to say that my counterparts in the provinces and territories are committed to these same objectives. When we met last summer, we committed to continue working toward one-project, one-review — and I am looking forward to advancing our collaboration at the next Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference this summer.  

Here in Canada, we’ve been having a public discussion about how to improve the environment for investment in major resource projects through streamlining and modernizing our regulatory review process. 

Canadians are taking a new pride in our country’s status as an energy superpower and a mining giant. They understand what our natural resources have meant to this country in the past, and what they mean to our future. 

In fact, it‘s estimated that over the next decade there are $500 billion of potential new energy and mining investment across Canada with close to $100 billion in mining alone. This includes projects like Stornaway’s Renard diamond mine in northern Quebec , Osisko’s Hammond Reef gold mine here in Ontario and Cameco’s Millenium uranium mine in Saskatchewan. This is not just dollars — it is thousands of jobs too. 

Canadians can see the opportunities in new markets. They know Canada is a leader, and they want Canada to press its advantage. 

We have widespread support for our vision and it is for the Canadian people that we continue to push for regulatory reform. A modernized regulatory system will stimulate jobs and growth in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. That’s what it’s all about.

Conclusion 

Let me close by reiterating that the stage is set for success. Canada has stable predictable economic conditions, a favourable tax regime, is a leader in technological innovation and is investing in geoscience. Now we are taking the next steps to modernize our regulatory system. 

There is no question that regulatory modernization will have a positive impact on the people in this room, this city, this province and this country. 

The economic activity that results from the responsible development of our natural resources generates significant tax revenue which pays for important social programs such as health care, education, and public pensions. 

The responsible development of our natural resources and the building of key infrastructure to export them create good, well-paying, and skilled jobs in cities and communities across Canada. 

We see the opportunities to expand our exports to new markets in the Asia–Pacific region and elsewhere and we know that we need to seize those opportunities now. 

Canadians are proud of our heritage and realize the immense benefits ― for all of us ― in our natural resources. 

These resources helped make Canada the greatest country in the world ― the true North, strong and free ― and they will help propel us forward into a new era of jobs, growth and prosperity.

Our natural resources are a great gift to this nation. 

The time is now for us to make the most of them ― to seize the opportunities before us, to take advantage of the markets that are out there and to realize the benefits for all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast.

Thank you very much, and best wishes for another successful convention and tradeshow.

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