Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
Northwestern Ontario’s burgeoning mining sector is expected to create 10,000 full-time jobs over the next decade and bring in up to $1.7 billion in overall economic revenue each year over the same period, says an exhaustive report.
But Thunder Bay’s Mining Readiness Strategy also warns that the city, the province, outlying municipalities and Aboriginal agencies have a lot of work to do to prepare for the boom: energy needs, housing shortages, aging roads and sewers, and worker training are all areas that need to be quickly addressed.
The overall buoyant outlook in the report suggests that the region will not be left out when the province’s economic recovery kicks in, as was the case during the forestry crash.
Spearheaded by Thunder Bay’s Community Economic Development Commission, the study was deemed complete Thursday and posted to the city’s website.
The rosy forecast is based on 10 new mines or major expansions, nine of which are in the advanced stage of exploration, including the Ring of Fire, Stillwater Canada’s proposed copper and palladium mine near Marathon and Goldcorp’s Channel Gold project at Red Lake.
“From the analysis it is expected there will be considerable opportunities for suppliers to support the potential mining projects in Northwestern Ontario, since investment in mining will result in creating quality jobs and GDP (gross domestic product) growth in upstream sectors,” said the report.
On the downside, the study warns that upgrades to the province’s electricity transmission system may not be completed in time to foster completion of planned mining projects.
“Although the East-West tie transmission line (between Thunder Bay and Wawa) will provide reliable external source of electricity upon completion, its status from 2014 to its anticipated in-service date of 2019 will not secure the reliable supply needed for the development of the mining sector which is forecasted to mature before the in-service date of the line,” says the report.
Adds the report: “It is critical that TBay Hydro and the Ontario Power Authority identify power generation gaps in the coming years and assess the contribution that can be made by the soon-to-be-closed Thunder Bay Generating Station.”
The report also notes that remote Northern First Nations, such as Webequie and Marten Falls, could benefit from the construction of “secondary roads” that could link to a proposed main transportation corridor between the Ring of Fire belt and the Municipality of Greenstone.
Thunder Bay’s already-tight housing market will be exacerbated by a mining boom, the report warns, but “estimates of future housing demand from mining sector growth are somewhat uncertain without certainty that the new mining employees will seek housing in the community.”
Current forecasts suggest the city and surrounding areas have to ramp up training programs as the mining boom looms.
“Even if 100 per cent of the unemployed population Thunder Bay (about 6,300) were to be trained and prepared for (the new) jobs, there would still not be enough workers to fill the available jobs.
“This places a strong imperative on Northwestern Ontario residents to acquire their Grade 12 diploma and attain skills that will be in demand as the economy grows.”
The full report is available at thunderbay.ca/miningreadiness.