"The average weekly wage for a person working in a mine is over 60% higher than the industrial average, and the minerals we produce are indispensable for of the transition from carbon fuels to electrification and a green economy."
Can you provide background on the role and evolution of OMA in supporting Ontario’s mining producers?
The OMA has been around since 1920, and our mission has always been to ensure Ontario's mining industry is globally competitive. Our number one priority is safety, and our goals are zero harm and increased productivity, so that mining continues to supply society with essential minerals, while working toward achieving zero waste and zero carbon targets.
How do you quantify mining’s contribution to the overall Ontario economy?
Currently, there are 37 active mines in Ontario, ranging from base metals like nickel and copper, to precious metals like gold and palladium, and industrial minerals like salt. Ten of these mines produce critical minerals, and there are more significant critical minerals projects in development. There are also opportunities to recover critical clean-tech minerals through the smelting process. In 2021, Ontario’s mining sector produced C$11.1 billion worth of minerals, which accounted for 20% of Canada’s total production value. The industry provides safe, well-paying jobs to approximately 75,000 Ontarians, while 77% of mining companies’ GDP contributions stay inside Ontario. 11% of Ontario’s mining industry workforce is Indigenous, which is one of the highest proportions of all industries in the province.
There are 29,000 direct jobs for individuals working in mines, and then on top of that, we have a vibrant supply and service sector that provides 40,000 more jobs. The average weekly wage for a person working in a mine is over 60% higher than the industrial average, and the minerals we produce are indispensable for the transition from carbon fuels to electrification and a green economy.
What makes Ontario an advantageous jurisdiction for mining companies?
Everybody talks about geology, and we are blessed to have good geology, but that is not the only reason companies want to operate here. What attracts capital are clear rules that are honestly applied. If you follow the rules, you will get a return on your investment. Consequently, companies can borrow money cheaper than in some other jurisdictions in the world.
What should the mining industry advocate in terms of an energy strategy that would help facilitate more viable mining projects?
Behind labour, energy is the second highest cost, and the mining industry cannot control the market. All it can do is look at cost structure. The projections for the cost of energy have risen, not just because of Russia, but because of policy decisions around North American pipelines and drilling permits. Natural gas prices are critically important to the bottom lines of mining companies. Within Ontario, we must build out infrastructure and existing transmission lines need to be strengthened for some of our mines to expand.
We want to make sure that we have a carbon-free grid that is accessible to potential new mines and strengthened for existing mines. Having nuclear is a huge advantage, but we should also be looking to replicate what Québec has done with respect to hydropower.
To what extent are communities and citizens in support of mining in Ontario?
The industry is gaining more and more support. In the old days, there were environmental problems, but now we use science and advanced technology to mitigate impacts. Mining is a temporary land use; even before starting production, Ontario miners plan for closure and restoring the land after mining activity is finished. As a result, we are seeing huge investments by our industry in pollution abatement, water recycling, and innovations that allow for minimal environmental impact. The fact that we have so many agreements in place with First Nations is a positive sign. We poll the general public every year, because we want to make sure that our industry is meeting evolving societal expectations. Last year, we saw a record number of people supporting Ontario mining, and wanting more mines here. Citizens recognize that the world needs what we offer, and if we want a cleaner world, we need more responsible mining and a localized supply chain.