DOING SOME DIGGING – A trek across Canada for mining news

Summer is nearly here and our thoughts turn to vacation trips. This is a wide and wonderful country that should be ...
Summer is nearly here and our thoughts turn to vacation trips. This is a wide and wonderful country that should be enjoyed by all our readers. But since I can't leave my desk today, I thought I'd take a look at the local news in a few of our mining communities scattered across the country.

Worries about increasing greenhouse gas emissions are front and centre for residents of the NORTHWEST TERRITORIES. Emissions rose 60% from 1996 to 2001, coincident with the economic boom that included Canada's first diamond mine. The mining and oil & gas industries produced 24% of the total from sources such as generators, and the diesel trucks travelling the mining and ice roads were responsible for 19%. The territory has no regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions, so all that can be done is call on industry for voluntary reductions. According to an editorial in the Northern News Services on June 1, "Efforts are underway to develop new hydroelectric facilities that could power compressor stations along the proposed natural gas pipeline and bring clean power to De Beers' [Snap Lake diamond] mine."

In TRAIL, British Columbia, Teck Cominco is in talks with union representatives at its metallurgical facilities. The two locals of the Steelworkers union voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. Their four-year contract with the company expired on May 31, but as of June 6 the two sides were still talking. The union is resisting proposed changes to the pension plan that would affect newly hired employees, the elimination of all post-retirement benefits, longer probation periods for new hires, and more contracting-out of certain jobs. The unions represent 645 workers. The last strike in Trail was in 1990.

The biggest story in FORT McMURRAY, Alberta, remains the fatal crash of the bus carrying 43 Syncrude oil sands workers. The collision occurred on May 20 while the bus was waiting for police to reopen the road after an earlier, unrelated accident. The driver tried to turn the bus around but got stuck cross-wise of the road. The bus was struck broadside by a transport truck. Six people died and nine victims were still in hospital on the morning of June 7. Another bus took 15 uninjured workers the rest of the way to Edmonton. Readers of the Fort McMurray Times learned yesterday that the city of Gibbons, Alta., offered to pay the bill for their cab rides to their homes in Edmonton, but the Alberta Building Trades Council stepped in to pick up the $118 tab.

Getting news from MANITOBA has run into a snag. We can officially say that both THOMPSON and FLIN FLON are in "the boondocks" as neither city has an on-line version of its newspaper. Even a search of CBC News online turned up nothing recent in either community. We wish our readers in Manitoba well, and welcome any news from them.

In SUDBURY, Ontario, the hottest story is Inco Ltd.'s decision to close its Copper Cliff copper refinery. There are about 140 jobs at stake, and the community is reeling at the thought that one of its largest and oldest employers is cutting back. The Greater Sudbury City Council voted on June 6 to urge Inco to keep the refinery open. It also plans to ask the provincial government to prohibit the company from shipping unrefined copper out of the city, a move that would require changes to the Ontario Mining Act. Inco insists that the 70-year-old plant is too small and uneconomic to remain open after the end of this year, and it is correct in its assessment. Replacing the facility is not on the drawing board.

The newspapers in QUEBEC mining communities are published in French, and my language skills fail me at this point. I was reduced to searching English-language newspapers in Montreal and Quebec City. There has been a forest fire near CHIBOUGAMAU and 925 residents were evacuated on June 6. No word on whether the Copper Rand mine was in danger, but the fires did cause widespread power outages. I learned by searching Google News that Century Mining has reached full-scale production at its Sigma gold mine near VAL D'OR. That's good news for the town.

NEW BRUNSWICK residents are upset by potential lead contamination from the smelter at BELLEDUNE. Although Noranda has met all the air-quality thresholds necessary to renew its operating permit, its plan to incinerate contaminated soil has caused an uproar. Lawyers for the Canadian government and concerned residents are seeking a full federal environmental review of the plant. The $30-million plant has already been built and given its provincial environmental approval in 2002.

My virtual trek across Canada has landed me in KENNETCOOK, NOVA SCOTIA, home of the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network. This agency has launched a campaign to tell people that both Nova Scotia Power and New Brunswick Power import 80% of their coal needs from Colombia, noted for its human rights abuses in the mining and petroleum sectors. Coal is plentiful in the Maritime Provinces, and it is a shame that it is no longer mined locally for local markets.

The best news about the mineral industry in NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR is the ongoing construction of Inco's nickel mine and concentrator in Voisey's Bay. The first concentrate should be shipped by the end of this year. A demonstration hydrometallurgical plant is to be commissioned in November 2005. If all goes according to plan, a commercial plant in Argentia will be started up in December 2011. The cost of developing both the mine and hydromet plant will top $1.5 billion, a nice shot in the arm to the provincial economy.

So there you have it, dear reader, a quick glance at what is happening in various mining communities across Canada. May I suggest a lobster supper in Prince Edward Island to round out your day?


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