Interview with Dan Newman
CMJ: Is Ontario in competition with other jurisdictions for exploration and mining investment?
Newman: Absolutely. Mining is a global industry. We’ve been ranked No. 1 in Canada by the Fraser Institute and No. 3 in the world as a jurisdiction to do mining in [in the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2000/2001], and there’s a reason for that. We’ve taken some very proactive steps to make the mining sector competitive.
As you know, we’ve cut the mining tax from 20% to 10%. We’ve also ensured that, should there be a new mine open in the North, it will have a 10-year tax holiday, which I think is a real incentive because we acknowledge that there are added costs involved in the prospecting and the opening up of that mine.
We’ve updated our claims map system, ClaimsMap II, which goes beyond the first version of ClaimsMap. Now you can actually go onto an area to see if it’s staked or not and see who holds the staking rights to a particular property.
We’ve also made ourselves competitive by having gone through a four-year, $8-million mineral exploration technology program to help build new technologies here in Ontario. We’re looking for innovative ideas that will come out of this, to be able to turn that into some products that are going to be developed here in Ontario.
CMJ: What do you think in this difficult economic climate that mining companies are trying to achieve? What is your ministry doing to help them?
Newman: For the junior exploration companies, survival is the issue of the day. We have 150 of these companies here in Ontario and that’s why we work with the flow through shares as a way to stimulate the mineral exploration sector.
We have Operation Treasure Hunt, which is providing much-needed information to the exploration sector. In my travels through the province dealing with the mining community, they’ve been very well pleased with what we’ve done in Operation Treasure Hunt.
Along with the Ontario Mining Association, we continue to work very closely with the Ontario Prospectors Association as well as the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada.
I attended the Mines Ministers Conference in Quebec City on September 10th and brought the concerns of the prospectors and junior exploration companies to the table to let my colleagues from across Canada and my counterpart in the federal government know about the position of Ontario companies.
CMJ: Do you find the other provincial ministers are talking along the same lines?
Newman: In a lot of respects. I think some of the things they’re talking about doing we’re already doing in Ontario. So I gained a greater understanding of why we are No.1 in Canada. Although we are ranked No.3 in the world, we should never be satisfied until we are No.1 in the world. [In the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2001/2002, published in December 2001, Ontario and Quebec share first place for investment attractiveness in the world.]
We will continue, for example, to reduce red tape and the mining sector is no exception. In the past we’ve brought forward events through the Red Tape Act to change outdated regulations for mining in this province. We are continuing to move forward on that and finding even more ways to reduce red tape to open Ontario up for business.
CMJ: What has Operation Treasure Hunt accomplished to date?
Newman: It has encouraged exploration and has supported the mining industry and has been probably one of our most successful programs. I think one of the best ways that our government can help support the sector is by providing that information that’s going to lead to those new targets. It is a program designed to meet the needs and the priorities of the industry and I think it enhances Ontario’s ability to attract new mineral investment. This is actually one of the reasons why we are No.1 in Canada.
We’ve worked with some of the First Nations communities throughout Operation Treasure Hunt and they’ve received some of the work, so this has added a new dimension to the success we’ve had.
CMJ: What progress has been made on the Abandoned Mines Rehabilitation Program?
Newman: We are in the third year of this $27-million program and we have made some real progress on this issue. In fact, the Mike Harris government has done more to address the issue of abandoned mines than any other government in the history of Ontario.
In 2000, we completed our inventory, with the assessment of 4,000 sites across the province. That’s major sites that have been rehabilitated to date, and it also includes the North Coldstream mine just northwest of Thunder Bay and the Kalin mine at Atikokan. We’ve also dealt with 35 lesser sites that have been rehabilitated to a safe condition by capping the shafts or filling the holes, for example. We’ve also done significant work in partnership with Kinross Gold Corp. on the Hollinger mine.
On September 18th, I joined the premier in announcing a major project underway to rehabilitate acid-generating tailings from the former Kam Kotia mine in Timmins. We’ll be spending $14 million to rehabilitate this site. The Premier said, on that day, that it not only makes good environmental sense and but also makes good business sense to clean up the site. Those lands that are returned to productive use are available for new business development and jobs creation opportunities that wouldn’t have been there before. A project like that will help the local economy and I think it will bring peace of mind to the people of the community. It’s not one of our most picturesque spots in Ontario but it will be once it’s rehabilitated.
CMJ: There have been some municipal tax situations in Elliot Lake and other places that are casting a negative light on how municipalities are treating mining companies. What is your government going to do to make sure that mining companies are benefiting and not losing in this?
Newman: I’m well aware of the mining industry’s concerns regarding the implications of the property tax issue that is being examined in Elliot Lake. The Ministry of Northern Development & Mines has conveyed these concerns to the lead ministries involved in municipal taxation, and the Ministry continues to follow these issues very closely. The matter is before the Assessment Review Board and as such it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that issue.
CMJ: There is federal legislation aimed at declaring road salt a toxic material. What are you doing to support the salt industry?
Newman: I’ve spoken with the Ontario Mining Association and people involved from those communities to discuss potential impact of the federal government’s proposal to declare salt toxic under the Environmental Protection Act. I understand that the Ontario salt producers support the Canadian Salt Institute’s concerns about the validity of the federal government’s research on salt toxicity and the potential negative public response. They suggest that when making a policy like this that the federal government must ensure it is using the best science available.
CMJ: Could you comment on the trade missions that your ministry is going on such as the mining equipment trade mission to Mexico in October?
Newman: It’s important nationally and internationally that Ontario is there at these trade and investment events, because it’s part of what you have to do to maintain your No.1 ranking in Canada. Because it’s a global industry, you have to ensure that you’re always there, promoting the fact that Ontario is open for business and all the positive reasons and all the things that we’ve done as a government to make Ontario a jurisdiction that you’d want to mine in and that you’d want to invest in. It also allows the industries involved in mining services and products an opportunity to show what they can do. I think it’s a very small investment that shows huge dividends, because you have to be there right where the action is, where the investors are.
Dan Newman was first elected to
the Ontario legislature in 1995 and re-elected in June 1999, as the MPP (Progressive Conservative) for the riding of Scarborough Southwest. In this period he has served as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Native Affairs and the Minister of Health. He was appointed Minister of the Environment in March 2000. He is currently Minister of Northern Development & Mines, and Chairperson of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.