“Mines never close, they just wait for metal prices to move higher.” While working on the Ontario report this month, I kept thinking about that expression. Ontario is endowed with abundant resources, including base metals, precious metals, platinum group metals (PGMs) and today’s prized battery minerals. The province is a mining-friendly jurisdiction and it draws much of its power from renewable hydroelectric and emissions-free nuclear power plants, which allow mines or any company carbon offsets. Larger communities are training workers in anticipation of a growing resource sector. Need some startup capital? The largest group of mining financiers are based in Toronto and they can structure deals, especially when metal prices are relatively high like they are today. Ontario knows the importance of the resource industry and it has the geology, engineering skills, labor, water, power and cash. So, what’s not to like? Maybe the nine months of winter.
As it traversed the country, construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s exposed the geology that hosts many of the mineral deposits. Prospectors and developers followed. Mines opened and closed with the ebb and flow of mineral demand brought about by industrialization and war. A new form of industrialization is taking place and it will require many of the base and precious metals mined today along with other metallic elements, such as cobalt, lithium, etc. That has brought new attention to known deposits that didn’t garner as much value in the past.
Some parts of Ontario have a rich mining history, such as the Sudbury Basin, where Canadians have been mining nickel for 130 years. In other regions, like the Abitibi Greenstone Belt and the Red Lake gold camp, mines are reopening that were closed 10 or 20 years ago due to the price swings with gold. A better understanding of the deposits and how to approach them differently with new technologies is breathing life back into the resource sector. As far as mining engineering skills, Canada has some of the brightest people. If you haven’t had a chance to do it yet, visit the Glencore Canada website and watch the Building the Mine of the Future video series they recently posted on the development of the Onaping Depth project and you will see their vision for the future.
What really sets Ontario apart from other well-endowed mining districts is that they are preparing for the rally. They embrace the resource sector and they appreciate the investments and the jobs. So much so that communities like Thunder Bay are devising better ways to support the mines and prospectors working in the surrounding area. Other countries could learn from this approach. It could mean the difference between being a producer and a consumer. Enjoy this edition of E&MJ.