The Canadian mining industry can face challenges effectively if they are dealt with correctly, says Mining Association of Canada president and CEO Pierre Gratton.
Canada’s mineral production reached a record $50.3-billion in 2011, but declined to $46.9-billion in 2012, owing to falling commodity prices. However, Gratton notes that, historically, these are still high prices.
“The industry’s trade levels also increased significantly, with exports growing by 20% to $101.9-billion in 2011, or 23% of Canada’s overall total. Across Canada, there are new major investments totalling $140-billion over the next five to ten years.
“To keep Canada competitive, we need to maintain low inflation, reduce debts, reduce and eliminate government deficits, as well as preserve and improve competitive tax levels,” he explains. Gratton says the country needs to ensure that government does not erode its ability to attract investment by taking action on three broad public-policy fronts – “regulatory, people and infrastructure”.
With respect to regulatory reform announced by the federal government in 2012 aimed at streamlining the project review and permitting process, Gratton states the association is actively working with government to ensure that the promised reforms result in their intended outcomes, namely efficient and predictable reviews of major projects.
“I am pleased to say that the reforms to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) have been successful, not only through better legislation but also through application. Federal environmental assessments are much better managed today than they were five years ago,” he states.
Another challenge facing the Canadian mining industry is personnel, he says.
“The Canadian mining industry added 12 000 workers in 2011, totalling more than 320 000 workers in mineral extraction, processing and manufacturing. Owing to a combination of growth and an aging workforce, it is estimated that the mining sector will need about 14 000 new workers a year over the next ten years.
“We are encouraged by recent reforms to Canada’s immigration system, moving Canada from a first come, first serve approach to one that specifically targets and ranks applicants according to the skills required by the country’s economy,” states Gratton.
He says that like a number of other countries, Canada will have to look to other countries to fill some of its skills requirements, but that the country is taking action to meet its human resource requirements.
“Governments, industry, schools, Aboriginal groups and other community organisations are working together to address the sector’s skills training, mobility and immigration needs,” Gratton explains.
Through the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, the mining sector has been partnering with authorities, such as the Assembly of First Nations, Canada’s National Inuit Organisation and the Métis National Council, to develop a range of tools and training programmes to facilitate and accelerate the participation of Aboriginal people in mining.
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