On July 1, Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Of course, I would normally take this opportunity to recognize the mining sector’s contribution to Canada’s wealth and its importance in our history.
However, CMJ’s news editor Marilyn Scales did an excellent job tracing some of the industry’s history and accomplishments in her editorial in our February issue.
So rather than rehashing the sector’s contribution to Canada’s first 150 years, I’d like to take a moment to imagine what our industry could contribute to Canada’s future.
Most Canadians – even if they are aware of the vast amount of wealth mining has contributed to the nation and the role the sector played in establishing Toronto as a global mining finance centre – associate it with our past.
But the mining sector is in the midst of a seismic transformation.
Faced with multiple, complex and intertwining challenges – productivity, cost and social licence issues among the most urgent – the global mining industry is calling out for leadership. The industry is at a crossroads, and while we know technology and innovation will shape our future, the exact path forward is unclear.
What if Canada stepped up into this void and started offering solutions to these problems? There is an incredible opportunity here to re-establish our expertise at finding, building and operating successful mining operations – but this time in a new technological era.
In this year’s budget, the federal government announced that it will be establishing five industry Superclusters. Part of its Innovation and Skills Plan, it will spend $950 million between 2017 and 2022 in a bid to “jumpstart innovation in high-growth sectors.” This is about creating the jobs of the future, deepening Canadian expertise in strategic areas and realizing our potential as global leaders in innovation.
The government will choose the five industries through a two-phase application process.
The first stage involves a letter of intent from a consortium of companies, academic institutions and non-profit organizations from across a sector, due by July 21. A short list of applicants will be selected to submit a full application this fall. The chosen consortiums will be expected to match any funding requested under the initiative dollar for dollar.
While the federal government has put money into some mining R&D initiatives (including $49 million last year in Laurentian University’s Metal Earth project), we need an industry wide strategy to be most effective.
The government declined the chance to invest in the Canada Mining Innovation Council, which has such a plan, in its March 2017 budget. CMIC had asked for $50 million in funding.
With the Supercluster program, there is a huge opportunity for Canada to again be a leader in the mining industry globally.
Within Canada, the opportunity is not just to create jobs of the future, but to change the image of mining that so many Canadians have.
Mining can be a cutting-edge, high-tech sector that will create the skilled jobs of the future and will have a lower impact environmentally and a positive impact socially. It can be a big part of Canada’s future.
But first, the industry needs to make its voice heard and make sure that mining is chosen as a Supercluster industry.
Happy Canada Day.