OTTAWA, Jan. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - The mining sector in Canada's North is
forecast to almost double its output and employment by the end of the
decade - staggering growth compared to the Canadian economy as a whole.
Achieving this outcome, however, depends on greater efforts by
industry, governments and communities to address key issues including
infrastructure, regulatory uncertainty, skills shortages and Aboriginal
rights, according to a Centre for the North report, The Future of Mining in Canada's North.
The Conference Board of Canada forecasts that Canada's overall northern
metal and non-metallic mineral output will grow by 91 per cent from
2011 to 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 7.5 per cent. In
contrast, the Canadian economy is forecast to grow by an average of
just 2.2 per cent annually over this period.
The annual gross domestic product of mining in the north, which was $4.4
billion in 2011, is expected to reach $8.5 billion in 2020 (both
figures in constant 2002 dollars).
Inadequate or non-existent infrastructure is often the greatest
deterrent to mining development in the North.
Skilled labour shortages pose a risk to this growth.
Aboriginal rights must be respected, and communities must be consulted,
for projects to be developed sustainably.
"Mining is the future economic driver of Canada's North. To fully reap
the benefits of this potential, we must find the right balance between
risk and opportunity," said Anja Jeffrey, Director, Centre for the North. "For instance, governments need to be
conscious of how changes to the regulatory environment can affect
communities and industry. Strong efforts to ensure a favourable
business climate can leave communities feeling vulnerable. Going too
far in the opposite direction can act as a deterrent to investment.
"Equally importantly — and amplified right now by current Aboriginal
demands for greater self determination — is the need for trust between
Aboriginal communities, governments and industry. Many northern and
Aboriginal regions continue to worry about the effects that mining
projects may have on their lands and on the environment. Such issues
can only be resolved through dialogue."
Community engagement and environmental protection has improved in recent
decades, and the business climate in Canada has been stable. But
impediments to sustainable growth remain. The report identifies six
main issues and potential solutions.
Improvements to regulatory processes. A solution to cumbersome regulations and duplication among governments
may be to conclude more transparent impact and benefit agreements -
allowing companies to accommodate local residents' needs and give
communities a chance to participate in negotiations.
Inadequate or non-existent infrastructure. The lack of transportation, energy and communities infrastructure is the
biggest obstacle to northern mining development. Companies currently
provide much of their own infrastructure - public-private partnerships
could relieve them of some of these costs.
Shortage of skilled labour. Women, new Canadians and youth are under-represented in the mining
industry. The North's Aboriginal population could supply many new
workers, but Aboriginal peoples will require education and training
needed to work in mining.
Engagement of local and Aboriginal communities. Mining companies need to demystify their activities. Communication that
begins at the outset of a project and continues through the life of the
mine is vital. So are the settlement of outstanding land claims and the
conclusion of resource agreements.
Environmental stewardship. Despite a substantial improvement in the industry's environmental
performance in recent decades, communities still have legitimate
concerns about the ecological impact of projects on natural habitats
and traditional lands.
Clarity around mine closure. In addition to implementing sustainable practices during production,
the industry must develop plans for mine closure, decommissioning and
reclamation - in collaboration with the local communities.
The Conference Board of Canada's Centre for the North works with Aboriginal leaders, businesses, governments, communities,
educational institutions, and other organizations to provide new
insights into how sustainable prosperity can be achieved in the North.
The Centre will help to establish and implement strategies, policies
and practices to transform that vision into reality.
SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada
For further information:
Françoise Makanda, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 389