When putting together our list of development projects to watch for in this issue (Page 39), I was struck by just how many ways there are for a potential mine to get waylaid.
Looking back at our August 2015 Top 40 issue, we published a similar list in a coastto- coast roundup of 24 promising projects. Today, only four of the projects that were on that list – De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds’ Gahcho Kué mine in the Northwest Territories, Stornoway Diamond’s Renard mine in Quebec, Trevali’s Caribou zinc mine in New Brunswick, and Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River iron ore project on Baffin Island, have been developed and are now operating mines.
Whether it’s commodity prices, market conditions in general, permitting woes, or First Nations opposition, it’s pretty much a miracle when a developer actually gets to celebrate a mine opening. (I’ve been to several and can attest to the euphoria.)
That’s more true now than it’s ever been – with permitting becoming more stringent and time consuming, environmental regulations becoming stricter, the growing pull and power of First Nations, and a general population that harbours negative views of mining.
None of this is news to most CMJ readers. But our Top 40 issue presents a great annual opportunity to take stock and celebrate the successes of Canadian mining companies.
The list, which has been compiled by CMJ’s news editor Marilyn Scales every year (except one) since 1989, is a useful marker of both the health of the industry and changes to it over time.
With inclusion determined by gross revenue, none of the Top 40 companies got on the list by accident. Many of them are established companies that have survived multiple market cycles – in one form or another – and found ways to grow.
Now, while it is indeed an accomplishment to make the list, it must be said that being big isn’t enough.
Although 25 of the 40 turned a profit this year, Marilyn points out that only four of the top 40 earned a profit in both 2015 and 2016. (The four were all precious metals companies, but definitely not the biggest miners. Read Marilyn’s story on Page 23 to find out who they were.) Of our top 10 companies, only three turned a profit last year.
Mining is a tough business, with the balance between productivity and profitability, being socially and environmentally responsible, and achieving growth tricky to achieve.
But we’re confident that through innovation, Canadian companies of all sizes will begin to find the magic formula that works.
Incidentally, please check out David Herle’s commentary on the next page, which deals with the social side of the equation. I saw David, a pollster and principal with the Gandalf Group, speak at the Ontario Natural Resources Forum earlier this year and he graciously agreed to turn his speaking notes into a column for CMJ. David uses his understanding of the trends behind public opinion to break down the challenges miners face in achieving social licence and offers solutions. I believe it’s essential reading.