Mining in Ontario not only has a key role to play in reviving the province’s economy but it can be a catalyst to help push us towards a newer and greener society. There is no getting around the fact that without mining, we would neither be able to maintain our current lifestyles, nor make way for the greener ones of the future.
Mining produces the building blocks of everything from your kitchen sink to wind turbines, hybrid cars, nanotechnology and beyond -where human imagination and ingenuity will take us in the future. After all, water purification systems rely on nickel and rare earths elements. Hybrid vehicles draw energy from nickel hydride batteries. Catalytic converters require cerium and palladium. Wind and solar technologies use a range of minerals and metals in the equipment and processes. Efficient lightweight vehicles require aluminum and lighter nickel-alloy composites.
As a society, we must get beyond an old mindset about mining as being obsolete. Just because mining has a long history -there is evidence of mining taking place in Ontario more than 11,000 years ago -doesn’t mean that it is not part of the future. What is obsolete is some people’s approach to mining, which fails to integrate it into our overall economic and creative potential.
Other global players are ahead of us on this count. China is using its dominance in mining rare earth elements to strengthen its position as a leader in alternative energy technologies. Rising oil prices and changing social values and expectations are making ecological friendly efficiency an essential element of global competitiveness. Ontario needs to take the long view and act to integrate its geological potential and its mineral wealth into a sustainable industrial and innovation strategy.
In order to build a strong, innovative and value-added economy, we need a solid base. For geographical and historical reasons, mining has provided that base for Ontario since the 1800s. If we are smart, we will continue to use that base to build the Ontario of tomorrow.
Ontario has some major advantages that it can leverage to build sustainable prosperity that is broadly shared. However, the not-so-new reality is that we must succeed in a fiercely competitive and increasingly mobile global market. The static nature of ore bodies and mines should not fool us into thinking that mining companies will remain in unsupportive jurisdictions. Complacency is not an option.
There are steps that government can take to ensure that Ontario is in an optimal position to take advantage of the next upswing in commodity prices to begin constructing its new economy. A basic foundation for mining success in Ontario -what can set us apart and give us an advantage over other jurisdictions with geological potential -is surety of the rule of law and regulatory efficiency and certainty.
These need to be maintained and enhanced if we wish to continue to reap the benefits that responsible mining can bring. Twenty-first century infrastructure is needed to ensure the connectivity that will allow for the transfer of knowledge, innovation and wealth to all geographic areas and sectors of the province.
To be truly proactive, the government should set a clear development target which, for example, could focus on the opening of 10 new mines in the next decade. It should also spearhead the establishment of a research, development and manufacturing base in Ontario that will turn our mineral wealth into green products and technologies that will support our lifestyles of the future. It is time to turn Ontario mineral potential into a modern reality and help build a clear vision for the future.
Industry must seize the opportunity provided to achieve outstanding levels of performance. With the right incentives in place, the Ontario mining industry has every right to aspire to a leadership position by being the cleanest, most productive, technologically advanced and socially responsible in the world. This can create resilience to economic shocks and ensure sustainable prosperity.