The mining industry is booming in Canada. Recent reports reveal a record $12.5 billion investment in the sector for 2011, representing a 24.5% increase on the previous year. The forecast for 2012 is expected to rise to nearly $16 billion. The effect on Canadian mining jobs will be significant particularly for mining construction jobs with the opening of new mines.
Over three quarters of this investment is expected to be concentrated in four provinces:
- British Columbia
A projected $6 billion is to be divided equally between Ontario and British Columbia, while Quebec and Saskatchewan will share $8 billion.
At the same time, proposed recent changes in mining legislation have been tabled in both Ontario and Quebec which would directly affect the aboriginal people living in resource rich areas. The proposals state that ‘while consultation with Aboriginal communities prior to undertaking exploration work is encouraged, it would not be required’.
To emphasize the importance of mining to the economy:
- One new mine can generate over 2,000 new jobs, with a significant initial increase specifically in mining construction jobs. At the same time, around $278m towards the economy.
- Last year alone, the mining sector was worth around $10.7bn in Ontario, accounting for 21% of Canada’s overall mineral production and a significant proportion of Canadian mining jobs.
- Ontario also represented 26% of Canada’s total exploration investments in 2011.
Ontario is home to one in five of Canada’s aboriginal people (also referred to as First Nations) who represent 2% of its population, the highest of any Canadian province.
The significant investment coupled with the proposed legislation changes has given rise to some concerns.
Ontario’s Government has been swift in reaffirming its commitment to the aboriginal people.
In a statement made on 21st June – National Aboriginal Day – this year, Ontario’s Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne, reaffirmed the government of Ontario’s commitment to the aborigine people. Their commitment to working in partnership with the aboriginals was made clear. The proposed ‘Ring of Fire’ investment project for example will result in the creation of hundreds of mining construction jobs among others but will require significant investment into local infrastructure and consultation with the people of the First Nations.
In addition, as 40% of their population are under the age of 25, the aboriginal people are also regarded as a vital part of Ontario’s future workforce.
One of the key investment projects in Quebec is Plan Nord. Announced in 2011, Plan Nord will see considerable investment in the untapped region north of the 49th Parallel over a 25 year period. According to Quebec’s government the project will:-
- Attract $80 billion in private public investment in the next 25 years.
- Create an additional 20,000 jobs during that same time including mining construction jobs
- Result in a $2.1 bn influx of public money on infrastructure, in particular to improve transport systems.
Again, its long-term success will require permitting, consultation and negotiation with the aboriginal people and an adherence to the recommendations in the new legislation.
The proposed changes to the current Mining Act make it clear that ‘the act is to be interpreted in a manner compatible with the duty to consult Aboriginal communities in a distinct manner, considering circumstances. The minister’s duty to consult Aboriginals is provided in plain terms’.
As the Canadian mining industry continues to flourish, the proposed changes in legislation coupled with considerable investment in the sector require careful management. Continual communication with all interested parties should ensure ongoing success for the country’s mining industry, an increase not just in mining construction jobs but Canadian mining jobs across the board.