Q: What progress has Operation Treasure Hunt made in the staking of new mines?
A: It has generated a lot of excitement in the province, particularly in light of the $10-million increase in the budget, the largest single increase ever for the mining industry. Over the past three years, we have invested a total of $29 million in mining. We see this as a long-term investment for the industry. I recently attended Mine Expo in Las Vegas, and in speaking about Operation Treasure Hunt, it had an enormous impact. Also, we’ve seen huge claim staking activity around the Garden-Obonga area (Lake Nipigon) and we attribute this to the program.
Q: Since mining is a major contributor to the province’s economy, what is the provincial government doing to make Ontario a better place to explore for minerals?
A: To begin, the 2000-2001 Budget decreased the Ontario Mining Tax from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. I feel it will keep mining in Ontario competitive. The Red Tape Reductions Bill is another important aspect because it streamlines the industry. The 10-year mining tax holiday for new and remote mines is also important, and corporate taxes have also declined. We have consultations with what we call the Minister’s Mining Act Advisory Committee to get advice on what we should be doing. The Ontario Mineral Exploration Technologies program is crucial. It is on the cutting edge, as it allows interested people in industry and academia to apply for grants to research advanced exploration techniques, leading to a well-trained work force in the future.
Q: How is R & D being supported, and what is the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines doing?
A: We look to groups like NORCAT [Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc.], MERC [Mineral Exploration Research Centre] and OMET [Ontario Mineral Exploration Technologies], not-for-profit research organizations, and try to be responsive in supporting R & D by providing research incentives. We tend to partner with industry associations, to help produce things like heavy equipment. We won’t invest in the actual equipment, but instead act as the catalyst by funding operating expenses. We also rely on the Willett Green Miller Centre in Sudbury, which has some of the best academics in the province. We have acknowledged the increase in competition for mineral investment; we need the best possible data to attract investors from all over the world.
Q: What is the Ministry doing to ensure that mining will continue in the province?
A: A mine is not infinite. We know that it will eventually run out of ore. New mines now have a closure plan in place, so we’re not going to subject taxpayers to financial or environmental risks. The Mines Rehabilitation Fund will ensure that once a mine has closed, it will be reverted back to its natural state. Currently, $27 million has been allocated to the program. Historically, such enlightened practices did not exist, and we have abandoned mines that have reverted back to the Crown.
Operation Treasure Hunt is vital, so that for example once a nickel mine runs out of nickel, they will be able to find another and keep the wealth flowing to the province.
The Flow-Through Share program is a tax incentive to investors to put money into prospecting. It will also encourage further exploration into existing mines, and we’ve already seen this in Timmins at the Kidd mine. For years, Ontario has pressured the federal government to implement a tax credit for development and exploration, and Ottawa finally included it in its last budget.
Q: What is the Geoscientists Act?
A: The Geoscientists Act is a licence for the geologists [in Ontario]. It ensures someone who is educated and qualified is performing the work. It has the support of the Association of Professional Geologists. The Ontario Securities Commission, along with the Toronto Stock Exchange will help to regulate the sector, after the Bre-X fiasco. It is important because we feel it will give potential investors confidence in knowing that the industry is being monitored. I hope that what we’ve done here can stand as a model for other provinces and states. I believe it’s the first stand-alone association for geoscientists; often they get paired with engineers.
Q: What are your major goals for Ontario?
A: The goal is to make Ontario the most attractive jurisdiction for mineral investments. We’re trying to support the life of the mine, from the staking point to the rehabilitation state. I’d like to work with the people of the First Nations in the far north of the province to encourage a partnership that would be mutually beneficial. I want to bring people to Ontario, to continue to revamp the market and explore technological advancements. I want to continue to strengthen the mining industry.