Ontario’s mining industry has repeatedly proven itself capable of riding out the low tides of recession while cresting with the high tides of booms and prospering through most phases of business and commodity price cycles.
Through economic thick and thin, it has been a significant factor in the development of Ontario since the late 1880s. While we can all get distraught over the current crisis of the day, or become over-elated with the golden opportunity around the next corner, the longer-term view shows mining is a steady and reliable contributor to Ontario’s foundation.
A recent conversation with Ontario Mining Association Manager of Communications Peter McBride, who is departing shortly to retire after spending more than 24 years with the Association, reminded me of this.
His time at the OMA has spanned two recessions, one financial crisis, one “super” cycle boom, the tenures of 13 OMA chairmen, nine provincial mines ministers and six Ontario premiers. That provides perspective.
Over the decades, miners have made the most of Ontario’s mineral endowment to attract investment, create jobs, support communities, pay taxes, help build infrastructure and provide hope and opportunity to people with different skills and backgrounds.
Elsewhere in this issue, an article on the study “An Au-thentic Opportunity: The economic impacts of a new gold mine in Ontario” more fully explore the positive role just one mine can have in this province.
People in the business have adapted and innovated, while adjusting to changing circumstances not just technologically but also in the human resource sense. They make the difference.
To succeed, miners need to know local, national and international economics, business and politics. Actions taken anywhere in the world can impact the success of a mining venture.
A decision to move a road in Timmins, buy a diamond in Tokyo, open an electro-plating shop in Turin, make winter driving safer in Toledo, raise taxes in Tanzania, or improve port facilities in Tasmania can all impact mining operations in Ontario.
Miners have adapted to the times. The skills today of mine operators and mine managers are more advanced and more complicated than – with all due respect — their predecessors.
Succeeding in a genuinely international business and meeting the realities of modern society demand it.
While no one could dispute a high level of training, safety awareness and technical skill are essential to the successful operation of million-dollar-plus pieces of high-tech equipment underground, think of the advancement in the skill sets of mine managers.
In many ways, these people are among the unsung heroes in their communities.
Only a few decades ago, mine managers could focus almost exclusively on their engineering skills. It may be a bit of an exaggeration but they could largely operate within their own worlds. They could build a good team, promote safety, manage budgets and report to head office.
Think of the mine manager today. An abundance of “soft” skills are needed in addition to engineering and technical expertise. The list of mining industry stakeholders seems to be perpetually expanding.
In the modern age, mine managers must serve as the faces of companies in their communities. They need to manage in a constructive and fair way the sometimes competing requests of local charities.
Open houses, information sessions and public consultations both inside and outside of municipal government offices have become regular activities for mine management.
The complex world of First Nations relations is on the agenda for many at mine sites. Historical and cultural boundaries are crossed. While issues still abound, the facts that mining is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginals in Canada, and that Aboriginals make up 9.7% of Ontario’s mining workforce, show progress is being made.
In the past, mine managers did not have to be conversant in the language and practice of corporate social responsibility. The management of safety of workers on the mine site has expanded to include efforts to protect and promote family safety and safer communities.
Along with safety, a strong and proactive concern for the environment and the impact mining activities can have on the environment — that must be mitigated — are paramount.
In short, mine management in the 21st Century cannot operate only in its own world. It must operate in the real world and deal with issues well beyond mining engineering and metallurgical science.
The demands of the real world have been increasing and they are being met. The materials essential to our modern lifestyle and our well-being are being produced in more sustainable and transparent ways.
Mining in Ontario has proven itself to be adaptable and it is meeting the challenges.
Let’s all keep in perspective what the industry has done for Ontario and what it will continue to do going forward.
People make the difference.