This is National Mining Week, from May 13 to 17. Did it sneak up on our readers? It certainly did on us … and it has been celebrated since 1996 to call attention to Canada's international leadership and expertise in mining.
The Hon. Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, kicked off the week by sounding the siren to open the Toronto Stock Exchange this morning.
Certainly Minister Oliver supports our industry: "We are committed to attracting investment, supporting innovations, opening new markets and improving the regulatory system for major mining projects. Mining continues to be a cornerstone of the Canadian economy, providing good jobs and benefits to communities across the country."
But his rhetoric wandered into the political realm when he continued:
"Our government is committed to the continued prosperity of Canada's mining sector. National Mining Week is an opportunity to highlight how realizing the potential of mining is essential to our government's goal of jobs, growth and long term prosperity for Canadians."
His words sound as if the federal government would like to take credit for our successful mineral industry – and probably all the economic mineral deposits that sustain it.
That is hardly the case. More often it seems that new mines are developed despite the government's policies. And the federal government is not the only level that weighs in. When the federal rules and regulations are satisfied, next come the provincial and territorial rules, and now in Quebec municipalities must be consulted. That's more red tape than needed for responsible miners to create "jobs, growth and long term prosperity for Canadians" in the words of Minister Oliver.
The federal government has to some extent streamlined the environmental review process. No longer must project owners prepare separate applications for the federal and provincial and territorial governments. The feds have agreed to accept the findings of the other governments.
Back to National Mining Week – why is this event so unknown to everyone outside the industry and maybe most of the people in it? The federal government has not mounted any publicity regarding the matter in southern Canada. Perhaps there was in northern towns. When the public doesn't have mining on its collective radar, Minister Oliver's remarks sound mightily like he is preaching to the choir, and a very small choir at that.
It is too late this year to do much about National Mining Week. Perhaps we in the industry can mark next year's Mining Week on our calendars and work on ways to take an exciting story directly to the public.