May 2014

President's notes

The federal government’s fork in the road

By Robert Schafer

Rob-SchaferRecently, the Harper government declared its support for the Canadian mining industry and the development of Canadian natural resources as a key component of its plan for economic growth. The government has said it recognizes that wealth creation through responsible mineral development will grow the economy, provide quality employment for current and future generations, improve the quality of life in rural aboriginal communities, and stimulate the development of Canada’s vast North through infrastructure projects that will provide access to remote regions. Yet the actions of the federal government create ambiguity.

The Ring of Fire, which is essentially an entirely new mining province with potential for multiple world-class mines that would provide many different mineral commodities, is currently languishing for lack of land-based access. A major roadwork, perhaps co-sponsored by public and private sources, has the power to spark development as the transnational railway did over a century ago. Many new advantages would be created, including immediate construction jobs, better connected and serviced northern communities, and the opportunity to discover much more mineral wealth.

But where is the federal government initiative?

In British Columbia, a new gold-copper mine with obvious immediate and long-term benefits was approved by the province, following a modification of operational plans to accommodate requests at the federal level. Yet the permit applications were still turned back by the federal government, largely due to vocal dissent by local aboriginal communities, despite the fact that there was broad support from other communities. This comes at the same time as a strong federal promotion of oil sands development and support for infrastructure and transport pipelines in various directions, against a current of local protests and opposition.

These ambiguous actions raise questions: Who holds decision-making primacy when it comes to utilization of Crown lands? Is Canada really open for business? If it is, is mining truly part of the federal government’s business plan, or are politics going to get in the way?

Robert Schafer
CIM President

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