Wednesday 20th March 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘alberta’

Rex Murphy comments on the carbon tax and Fort McMurray’s decline

March 8th, 2019

…Read more

Miners and explorers pick their spots in Fraser Institute’s latest report card

February 28th, 2019

by Greg Klein | February 28, 2019

Ontario dropped dramatically but an improved performance by the Northwest Territories and Nunavut helped Canada retain its status as the planet’s most mining-friendly country. That’s the verdict of the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2018, a study of jurisdictions worldwide. Some 291 mining and exploration people responded to questions on a number of issues, supplying enough info to rank 83 countries, provinces and states.

Canadian and American jurisdictions dominated the most important section, with four spots each on the Investment Attractiveness Index’s top 10. Combined ratings for all Canadian jurisdictions held this country’s place as the miners’ favourite overall.

The IAI rates both geology and government policies. Respondents typically say they base about 40% of their investment decisions on policy factors and about 60% on geology. Here’s the IAI top 10 with the previous year’s numbers in parentheses:

  • 1 Nevada (3)

  • 2 Western Australia (5)

  • 3 Saskatchewan (2)

  • 4 Quebec (6)

  • 5 Alaska (10)

  • 6 Chile (8)

  • 7 Utah (15)

  • 8 Arizona (9)

  • 9 Yukon (13)

  • 10 Northwest Territories (21)

Here are Canada’s IAI rankings:

  • 3 Saskatchewan (2)

  • 4 Quebec (6)

  • 9 Yukon (13)

  • 10 Northwest Territories (21)

  • 11 Newfoundland and Labrador (11)

  • 12 Manitoba (18)

  • 15 Nunavut (26)

  • 18 British Columbia (20)

  • 20 Ontario (7)

  • 30 New Brunswick (30)

  • 51 Alberta (49)

  • 57 Nova Scotia (56)

Despite Ontario’s fall from grace, the province’s policy ratings changed little from last year. Relative to other jurisdictions, however, the province plummeted. Concerns include disputed land claims, as well as uncertainty about protected areas and environmental regulations.

The Policy Perception Index ignored geology to focus on how government treats miners and explorers. Saskatchewan ranked first worldwide, as seen in these Canadian standings:

The evidence is clear—mineral deposits alone are not enough to attract precious commodity investment dollars. A sound regulatory regime coupled with competitive fiscal policies is key to making a jurisdiction attractive in the eyes of mining investors.—Ashley Stedman,
senior policy analyst,
the Fraser Institute

  • 1 Saskatchewan (3)

  • 9 New Brunswick (13)

  • 10 Quebec (9)

  • 11 Nova Scotia (24)

  • 14 Alberta (16)

  • 18 Newfoundland (10)

  • 24 Yukon (22)

  • 30 Ontario (20)

  • 33 Manitoba (27)

  • 42 NWT (42)

  • 44 B.C. (36)

  • 45 Nunavut (44)

The NWT and Nunavut’s indifferent PPI performance suggests greater appreciation of the territories’ geology boosted their IAI rank.

This year’s study included a chapter on exploration permitting, previously the subject of a separate Fraser Institute study. Twenty-two jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S., Australia and Scandinavia were evaluated for time, transparency and certainty. Cumulatively, the six American states did best, with 72% of explorers saying they got permits within six months, compared with 69% for the eight Canadian provinces, 53% for the two Scandinavian countries (Finland and Sweden) and 34% for the six Australian states.

A majority of respondents working in Canada (56%) said permitting waits had grown over the last decade, compared with 52% in Australia, 45% in Scandinavia and 28% in the U.S.

A lack of permitting transparency was cited as an investment deterrent by 48% of respondents working in Australia, 44% in Canada, 33% in Scandinavia and 24% in the U.S.

Eighty-eight percent of explorers working in the U.S. and Scandinavia expressed confidence that they’d eventually get permits, followed by 77% for Australia and 73% for Canada.

Saskatchewan led Canada for timeline certainty, transparency and, with Quebec, confidence that permits would eventually come through.

As for the IAI’s 10 worst, they include Bolivia, despite some recent efforts to encourage development; China, the only east Asian country in the study; and problem-plagued Venezuela.

  • 74 Bolivia (86)

  • 75 La Rioja province, Argentina (80)

  • 76 Dominican Republic (72)

  • 77 Ethiopia (81)

  • 78 China (83)

  • 79 Panama (77)

  • 80 Guatemala (91)

  • 81 Nicaragua (82)

  • 82 Neuquen province, Argentina (57)

  • 83 Venezuela (85)

Explorers made up nearly 52% of survey respondents, producers just over 25%, consulting companies over 16% and others nearly 8%.

“The evidence is clear—mineral deposits alone are not enough to attract precious commodity investment dollars,” said Ashley Stedman, who co-wrote the study with Kenneth P. Green. “A sound regulatory regime coupled with competitive fiscal policies is key to making a jurisdiction attractive in the eyes of mining investors.”

Download the Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2018.

Battlefield correspondent

January 24th, 2019

Rex Murphy sees human casualties in the war on Canada’s resource industries

by Greg Klein

Rex Murphy sees human casualties in the war on Canada’s resource industries

An SRO audience paid rapt attention to Rex Murphy’s VRIC speech.

 

There’s something inspiring about a Newfoundlander—a Newfoundlander born in Newfoundland before it even joined Canada—coming to the West Coast largely to defend Alberta’s oil and gas sector. Actually Rex Murphy’s message applies to Canada’s resource industries overall, focusing on the people who work in them, their families and others who helped build the country. He sees the chasm between those who find fulfillment in employment and those who would shut down the industries that provide it.

Rex Murphy sees human casualties in the war on Canada’s resource industries

A National Post columnist who’s somehow tolerated by the CBC, Murphy proved a huge hit with an overflow crowd at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2019. “As a journalist, I’m in a room full of achievers,” he quipped. “This is a very awkward spot.” But unlike most journalists, he neither ignores nor celebrates an enormous shift in Canadian society.

He remembers miners from Baie Verte and Buchans who frequented his mother’s restaurant in the 1950s, “the gentlest of men” despite their gruelling work. But important as mining was, Newfoundland’s main source of survival was fishing. That changed dramatically in 1992.

That’s when 31,000 people, “at the stroke of a pen on a single day, were completely removed from the Newfoundland inshore fishery. Something that had gone on for 450 years, that defined the culture, the humour, the idiom, the songs, the pattern of settlement, the whole idea of Newfoundland, was wrapped up in that fishery…. For the first time in 500 years no one could jig a codfish and have it for supper. But also it was 31,000 people abruptly unemployed.”

Proportionately that would have been 660,000 people in Ontario, he added. One man he knew, desperately hoping for a job in Hamilton, sold his house for seven plane tickets. “That’s how rough it was.”

Rex Murphy sees human casualties in the war on Canada’s resource industries

But as one regional resource economy collapsed, another boomed. Alberta’s oilpatch needed workers. Murphy calls it “one of the great rescue operations of Canadian Confederation, which most people still haven’t even heard about…. It was one of the great moments, unsung, of Confederation at work, where one region of the country, very willingly, allowed a strange bunch with certainly a stranger language to wander into their province … one of the great songs that we should be singing, that the enterprise of Alberta and a primary industry rescued one of the great social and cultural blows of another part of the Confederation. Did you ever hear about it?”

We more likely heard vilification, often coming from activists, celebrities, media and increasingly Ottawa, he maintained. “You heard every criticism you could hear about poor Fort McMurray. Even after the fire they went after it…. You had the oil price decline, you had the burning of Fort McMurray, you had a flood in Fort McMurray, you had the departure of capital from Fort McMurray, you had the layoff of engineers in Fort McMurray, and what did they decide was the cure? Let’s bring in a carbon tax.

“I mean, the poor creature’s already laid out on the morgue table and they want to take another few shots at the head.”

Rex Murphy sees human casualties in the war on Canada’s resource industries

Resource extraction was vital to the generations who built this country, Murphy emphasized. “It is only in a country as prosperous as our own that we get to the point where we denigrate and derogate the essential industries that brought us precisely to where we are.”

Prosperity, or at least just simply work, can provide intangible benefits too, he pointed out.

“Do you know what it’s like not to have work? There’s no psychological stress greater except loss of a loved one or breakup of a family…. It’s not just the work, it’s not just the paycheque, it is the fulfillment of the human personality.”

Although often incredulous, Murphy’s cri de coeur falls short of actual despair, especially when laced with homespun humour. Nevertheless a despairing thought might occur to listeners who wonder whether the intangible value of an earned paycheque matters much in a culture of entitlement, or among those who find remuneration in activism. As for work’s fulfillment of the human personality, maybe another type of personality has gained prominence, one that finds fulfillment in espousing fashionable convictions and obstructing useful projects.

What remains to be seen is whether the people he speaks for are declining, in numbers as well as influence. Maybe previous generations could have offset such a fate by producing a few more Rex Murphys.

Videos of VRIC 2019 presentations will be posted online in the coming weeks by Cambridge House International.

Cross-country events mark Investor Education Month

October 2nd, 2018

by Greg Klein | October 2, 2018

Following the ounce-of-prevention principle, securities commissions across Canada plan a number of initiatives to encourage smarter, safer investment strategies. A month of events begins with World Investor Week, in which Canadian regulators join the International Organization of Securities Commissions from October 1 to 7. Here’s an outline of this country’s events from province to province.

British Columbia
The B.C. Securities Commission will release new research on millennials this month, along with new tools to help people understand their investment returns. The BCSC also plans design updates to InvestRight.org to improve its efficacy.

Cross-country events mark Investor Education Month

Alberta
A digital education campaign called Spot the Odd will raise awareness of the Alberta Securities Commission’s free resources as well as encourage financial literacy and fraud awareness. A number of activities across the province will include Don’t Get Tricked, to be held in Calgary on October 17.  The ASC provides other resources on CheckFirst.ca.  

Saskatchewan
The province’s Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority has a cryptocurrency awareness campaign slated for Facebook, Twitter, the FCAA website and YouTube. In addition, businesses planning to use cryptocurrencies are invited to discuss their project with the FCAA to learn whether it falls under securities legislation.

Manitoba
The Manitoba Securities Commission will formally launch MoneySmartManitoba.ca to promote financial literacy and planning. The MSC will also take to the Twittersphere with news, tips and strategies for investors.

Ontario
The Ontario Securities Commission plans social media chats on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #IEM2018. The OSC also hosts GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, plans a telephone townhall for October 10, presents public events around the province with OSC in the Community and further encourages awareness through an investor newsletter.

Participating in World Investor Week helps promote investor education and protection both locally and globally.—Tyler Fleming,
Ontario Securities Commission

Quebec
L’Autorité des marchés financiers will release results of its fourth Financial Awareness Index, measuring the public’s knowledge and use of financial products and services. The AMF will also present the third edition of its Talking Money in Class! contest for high school teachers and take part in the Quebec Seniors’ Fair.

New Brunswick
The Financial and Consumer Services Commission will present online info with special emphasis on initial coin offerings. For more tips on fraud, investors may visit fcnb.ca and follow the commission on Facebook and Twitter. The Fortune online trivia game allows investors to compete with others across the province to learn more and win prizes.

In addition to all that, the Canadian Securities Administrators umbrella group offers its own online tools and resources. The CSA invites the public to take advantage of Investor Education Month and World Investor Week by following @CSA_News on Twitter and @CSA.ACVM on Facebook.

Read: Regulators emphasize innovation and deterrence as financial sanctions fail.

Reaching arctic mines by sea

September 10th, 2018

Operating in northern Canada often means creating your own transportation routes

by Greg Klein

Amid all the controversy over spending $4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy a pipeline project whose $9.3-billion expansion might never go through, Ottawa managed to come up with some good, if relatively minor, infrastructure news. Rehab work will begin immediately on an idled railway connecting with a port that together linked Churchill, Manitoba, with the rest of Canada by land and the world by sea. Should all go to plan the private-public partnership would be one of just a few recent success stories in northern infrastructure.

Operating in northern Canada often means building your own infrastructure

The arctic Quebec riches of Glencore’s Raglan mine
justify an especially roundabout route from mine to market.

Denver-based owner OmniTRAX shut down Churchill’s deep-water port in 2016, blaming the demise of grain shipping through that route. The following year the company said it couldn’t afford rail repairs after a flood washed out sections of the line. Now the railway, port and an associated tank farm come under new ownership in an “historic” deal involving the Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership and the Fairfax Financial Holdings & AGT Limited Partnership.

“The consortium brings together First Nations and community ownership and support, along with significant private sector leadership and global investment capacity, and further, short line rail operation and shipping experience,” Ottawa enthused. As stakeholders heaped praise on the federal government, the source for much of the money seemed clear. But not even the purchase price, let alone details on who pays how much, have been disclosed.

Still the revitalization program, which could re-open the railway this coming winter, heightens the potential of resource projects in northern Manitoba and Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. As such, the apparent P3 success contrasts with a northern infrastructure setback to the northwest.

In April Transport Canada rejected a request to fund the bulk of a $527-million proposal to build another deep-water port at Grays Bay, Nunavut, along with a 227-kilometre year-round road leading to the territory’s former Jericho diamond mine. The Northwest Territories offered to build its own all-weather link, where a winter road now connects Jericho with three operating diamond mines in the NWT’s portion of the Lac de Gras region.

However the federal refusal prompted Nunavut to pull its support for Grays Bay. Undeterred, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association joined the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines at last month’s Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in Iqaluit to argue the case for Grays Bay and other infrastructure projects. Chamber executive director Tom Hoefer said that with the exception of the NWT’s 97-kilometre Tlicho all-season road, the two territories have gone more than 40 years without government support for major projects. The last came in 1975, when Ottawa partnered with industry to build the world’s first ice‐breaking cargo ship, serving the former Nanisivik and Polaris mines in present-day Nunavut, he said.

With no power grids to our remote mines, [companies] must provide their own diesel-generated power, or wind in the case of Diavik. Being off the highway system, they must build their own roads—whether seasonal ice roads or all-weather roads. The ice road melts every year and must be rebuilt annually for $25 million…. Some of our mines must build their own seaports and all provide their own airports.—Tom Hoefer, executive director
of the NWT and Nunavut
Chamber of Mines

Hoefer compared the Slave geological province, home to deposits of precious and base metals along with rare earths and Lac de Gras diamonds, to the Abitibi. Kivalliq, he added, also offers considerable potential in addition to the regional operations of Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM.

But while mining plays an overwhelming role in the northern economy, he stressed, it’s been up to northern miners to build their own infrastructure.

Baffinland’s Mary River iron ore mine co-owners ArcelorMittal and Nunavut Iron Ore want to replace their hauling road with a 110-kilometre railway to the company’s port at Milne Inlet, where ore gets stockpiled prior to summer shipping to Europe. Now undergoing environmental review, the railway would be part of a proposal to increase extraction from four million tonnes to 6.2 million tonnes annually and finally make the mine profitable. An environmental review already recommended rejection of the increased tonnage proposal, but the final decision rests with Ottawa. (Update: On September 30, 2018, Ottawa approved the increased tonnage application for a one-year trial period.)

The rail line, if approved in its separate application, could be in operation by 2020 or 2021.

That would make it Canada’s only railway north of 60, except for a CN spur line reaching Hay River, NWT, from Alberta and a tourist excursion to Carcross, Yukon, from the Alaska Panhandle town of Skagway. (Also connected by highway to the Yukon, Skagway provides year-round deep-water port facilities for the territory, including Capstone Mining’s (TSX:CS) Minto copper mine.)

Projected for production next year, Amaruq comprises a satellite deposit for Agnico’s Meadowbank gold mine in Nunavut. The company has built a 50-kilometre all-weather road linking Amaruq with Meadowbank’s processing facility and the company’s 110-kilometre all-weather road—by far the territory’s longest road—to Baker Lake. Interestingly that’s Nunavut’s only inland community but the hamlet has seasonal boat access to Chesterfield Inlet on northwestern Hudson Bay. From there, still restricted to the ice-free months, ships can reach Churchill or the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Also primed for 2019 gold production is Agnico’s Meliadine, 290 kilometres southeast of Meadowbank. The company’s 25-kilometre all-weather road connects with summer shipping facilities at Rankin Inlet, 90 klicks south of Chesterfield Inlet.

With its Doris gold operation only five kilometres from the Northwest Passage port of Roberts Bay, TMAC Resources TSX:TMR hopes to mine two more deposits on the same Hope Bay greenstone belt by 2020 and 2022 respectively.

But the most circuitous route from northern mine to market begins in arctic Quebec using trucks, ship, rail and more rail, then another ship. Glencore hauls nickel-copper concentrate about 100 kilometres by road from Raglan to Deception Bay, roughly 2,000 crow-flying kilometres from Quebec City. That’s the next destination, but by water. From there the stuff’s offloaded onto rail for transport to a Sudbury smelter, then back by rail to Quebec City again. Ships then make the trans-Atlantic crossing to Norway.

This is Part 1 of a series about northern infrastructure.

Related reading:

B.C. Securities Commission under fire as half a billion in penalties remains unenforced

November 21st, 2017

by Greg Klein | November 21, 2017

Although some small cap companies seem to consider regulators the bane of their existence, big-time scammers might take a more benign view. A Postmedia investigation has revealed that the British Columbia Securities Commission—with 234 staffers and a $46.6-million budget—has collected less than 2% of $510 million in fines and payback orders issued over the last decade. The collection rate manages to fall even farther, to less than 0.1%, for 29 such orders of $1 million or more that total $458 million.

B.C. Securities Commission under fire as half a billion in penalties remains unenforced

Although the BCSC responds that the con artists may have hidden their assets or disappeared, journalist Gordon Hoekstra reports, “Postmedia tracked down $31 million in potential assets linked to the fraudsters,” including homes in affluent B.C. suburbs, Las Vegas and Hawaii.

Among available enforcement strategies, the BCSC “can file any of its decisions in B.C. Supreme Court, a simple administrative exercise, which automatically makes the penalties an order of the court,” Hoekstra points out. “If a property has been transferred to someone else, for example, a spouse, to escape a penalty, that may also be considered fraud.”

Regulators in other provinces do somewhat better, according to the study. Securities commissions in Ontario and Alberta achieved 18% collection rates over the last decade, while Quebec reached about 20% over the past four years. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hit nearly 60% during the past five years.

The exposé seems to have taken both of B.C.’s main political parties by surprise. In a written statement NDP Finance Minister Carole James noted the commission operates at arms-length from the government. “We would encourage any proposals from the BCSC on any new mechanisms they may need to collect the fines,” she stated.

“No details were released by James, who ministry officials said was unavailable for an interview, on how the provincial government would follow up or monitor any proposals,” Hoekstra added.

As for the opposition party that had been government during most of the 10-year period, the BC Liberals “said in an e-mail that ‘unfortunately’ no MLAs were available for comment. The Liberals have 41 sitting MLAs, including two finance critics, Shirley Bond and Tracy Redies.”

At a regulatory crossroads

October 4th, 2017

It’s time to fix federally induced problems, says the Mining Association of Canada

by Greg Klein

The fundamentals behind the last supercycle remain in place, insists Pierre Gratton. Yet the Mining Association of Canada president/CEO warns that the country has lost ground as a global industry leader. While the current upswing continues, the transition to a cleaner, lower-carbon future will call for even more mineable commodities. Whether Canada participates to its fullest potential, however, depends largely on policies directed by Ottawa.

Addressing a 230-strong Greater Vancouver Board of Trade audience on September 27, Gratton noted that by 2015 Canada lost its first-place spot for exploration investment. The usurper was Australia, which proved itself “much more strategic and successful over the past decade.” Meanwhile this country’s list of active projects has fallen to nearly half its 2011 peak of 2,700. Only two new projects came up for federal environmental assessment in 2016, an historic low. “We’ve got world class deposits sitting idle,” he added, citing Ontario’s Ring of Fire, Nunavut’s Izok Corridor and British Columbia’s New Prosperity.

It’s time to fix federally induced problems, says the Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton: “Hopefully we’ll get it right this time, we’ll lock
it in, we’ll know what the rules are and get down to business.”
(Photo: Matt Borck, courtesy Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.)

Yet opportunities have been improving, he maintained, and not just because of stronger commodity prices. In addition to continued growth among emerging economies, carbon-reducing measures call for new technologies that require more mining products. That’s the case for electrified transportation, wind and solar generation, and energy storage.

“The transition to a low-carbon future is not years away from now—it has already started and it’s accelerating at a rapid pace.” Unless Canada turns that to its competitive advantage, “we will lose this opportunity to other countries… It’s going to be us, Australia or someone else.”

Moreover, Canada can produce these commodities “as a leader in sustainability.” This country “already operates some of the lowest-emitting, highest-tech and most socially responsible mines in the world.” Gratton credited companies that implemented MAC’s Towards Sustainable Mining program with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And altruism can be rewarding: “Our Canadian-made mining standard has caught the attention of Apple and other global companies that see it as a program robust enough to demonstrate responsible sourcing.”

But if environmental progress bodes well for Canadian mining, the policy environment remains uncertain. The 2012 regulatory reforms of the previous Conservative government lost both public and investor confidence, Gratton argued.

Ottawa now needs to put “the principle of one project/one review squarely into action. We need a federal process that no longer places an unfair and unequal burden on Canada’s mining sector alone, which has sadly been the case since 2012.”

For a couple of these pieces, like the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act, I think the mining industry is probably going to come out fine. The Environmental Assessment Act, I don’t know.

The Liberals, he said, are “committed to review and replace all of the federal reforms of the previous Harper government…. For a couple of these pieces, like the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act, I think the mining industry is probably going to come out fine. The Environmental Assessment Act, I don’t know. At this point it is still so much in flux it is hard to know exactly where this will land.”

Six years of regulatory uncertainty with the prospect of more to come contributes to “this question mark in Canada. And hopefully we’ll get it right this time, we’ll lock it in, we’ll know what the rules are and get down to business.”

Returning to climate change, Gratton noted some industry initiatives, including wind energy reducing diesel dependency at Diavik and Raglan, and the transformation of B.C.’s former Sullivan mine into a community-owned solar plant that sells electricity to the grid. Goldcorp’s (TSX:G) Borden project, anticipated for 2019 production, would be Canada’s first all-electric underground mine.

Not only would the battery-powered fleet cut emissions, it “will significantly reduce ventilation costs,” Gratton stated.

“But we need to do more to spur innovation.” MAC proposes government support for innovation superclusters, a possible “catalyst to achieve transformative outcomes for our industry and help re-establish Canada as a global leader for mining innovation.”

Northern infrastructure, bringing both roads and electricity to isolated areas, again complements both the industry and the environment. Gratton pointed to the Northwest Territories’ planned $150-million all-season road to the Tlicho community, and the federal/Yukon $360-million road that would access the Coffee and Casino projects, two potential mines that would “contribute billions in new investment … and thousands of direct and indirect jobs.”

With federal funding available for green infrastructure, here’s an opportunity to take more communities off diesel, fully open up B.C.’s Golden Triangle and deliver to Yukon and the projects up there reliable, clean energy.

Referring to the 344-kilometre extension of B.C.’s Northwest Transmission Line in 2014, Gratton said: “I’ve a pitch for you today. Why not finish the job and take that line all the way to the Yukon? With federal funding available for green infrastructure, here’s an opportunity to take more communities off diesel, fully open up B.C.’s Golden Triangle and deliver to Yukon and the projects up there reliable, clean energy.”

Undiscouraged by the rugged 800-kilometre gap between the provincial and territorial grids, he added, “I was meeting recently with Yukon officials and they’re very interested in this. I remember also that Premier Horgan, when he was Energy and Mines critic, was a big champion of this project too. So here’s a nation-building project that maybe he can get behind.”

“I could talk about many other things as well, but the key takeaway is that we need to reposition Canada and enhance our competiveness going forward. And it’s critical because other countries are doing the same.”

But in response to an audience question about native consent, was he optimistic or euphemistic? “We’re not in a world of veto,” Gratton insisted. “We’re in a world of deep and meaningful engagement.”

Speaking with ResourceClips.com, he said MAC’s supercluster proposal could create regional centres for excellence focusing on mining and exploration in Sudbury and Vancouver, processing in Quebec City and oil sands in Edmonton.

There are some issues where we’ve made real progress with this new government that we hadn’t been able to make under the previous government.

Although it’s too early to evaluate the Liberals’ performance, the former Chretien-era government communications guy did say, “There are some issues where we’ve made real progress with this new government that we hadn’t been able to make under the previous government.”

Environmental permitting delays, he pointed out, “have been horrendous. At times it takes five years after an environmental assessment before you get your permit. The previous government announced a policy that would shorten that to eight months but didn’t do anything to implement it. This government has actually put in place the tools to make it happen. So we are seeing those timelines shrink.”

Additionally Ottawa now consults with MAC much more than did the previous government. The Conservatives’ lack of dialogue, he stated, “could be why they got things wrong.”

B.C. election: Inconclusive result puts focus on Green Party

May 10th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 10, 2017

What looks like British Columbia’s first minority government since 1952 will evoke plenty of speculation, not the least from miners. As cliff-hanger metaphors competed with seesaw comparisons throughout the night of May 9, the B.C. election came to an inconclusive result by ResourceClips.com press time. While the B.C. Elections website took most of the day and night off, CBC pegged the post-midnight results at 43 Liberals elected, 41 New Democrats elected and three Greens in the upper echelons (two elected and one leading, compared with just one seat last time).

B.C. election: Inconclusive result puts focus on Green Party

During the campaign all three parties professed support for mining, especially the continuation of flow-through tax credits. But the much more vexatious issue of permitting drew largely euphemistic responses.

Quoted by the Association for Mineral Exploration, NDP leader John Horgan pledged his party would address the uncertainty of permitting by working with Geoscience B.C., the B.C. Geological Survey and First Nations “to develop comprehensive mineral land use plans.”

In the same publication Green leader Andrew Weaver professed his commitment to fix B.C.’s “structurally broken” environmental review process, in which the “professional reliance model” has lost the confidence of First Nations and the general public.

Former mines minister Bill Bennett, who retired as the writ was dropped, reminded AME about his government’s inducements to native support, including royalty sharing and training programs.

But the mining-related issue that unexpectedly gained most prominence was thermal coal and its trans-shipment from the U.S. to Asia via B.C. The stuff “fouls the air. It fouls the oceans. It’s terrible for the environment,” Canadian Press quoted BC Liberal leader Christy Clark.

She spoke in response to the U.S. president’s 20% tariff on softwood lumber imports, most of which come from B.C.

Her proposed $70-a-tonne penalty would not only cripple thermal coal exports from the U.S., but also from Alberta, to the detriment of that province’s mines and this province’s ports. Clark’s comments didn’t acknowledge B.C.’s reliance—notwithstanding its hydro resources—on Alberta’s coal-generated electricity. That’s not to mention B.C.’s dependency on nuclear-generated power from Washington state. B.C. has banned uranium exploration.

Additionally Clark’s proposal would hammer the final nail in the coffin of Quinsam, B.C.’s last thermal coal mine. Hillsborough Resources suspended the Vancouver Island underground operation in January 2016 due to low prices.

A coal mining topic unacknowledged in the campaign was the election’s coincidence with the 25th anniversary of Nova Scotia’s Westray disaster, which killed 26 miners. Down Easterners marked that anniversary as a former director of mine-owner Curragh Inc, 83-year-old BC Liberal Ralph Sultan, swept to his fifth straight victory in the affluent riding of West Vancouver-Capilano.

Meanwhile preliminary results offer the Greens potential power that’s unprecedented for their party in Canada. All three projected Green seats are on southern Vancouver Island, also home to Canada’s sole Green MP, Elizabeth May. Apart from B.C., only New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have Green MLAs, one each in those two provinces.

However B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver stands apart from the other parties’ undistinguished professional politicians. A University of Victoria professor, he shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his participation in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

His influence, with maybe two other Greens, could be formidable. That might be especially true since this election will mark the first new government after the 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam disaster that challenged public support for mining.

B.C. and Nova Scotia commemorate coal mining disasters

May 7th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 7, 2017

Two anniversaries six days apart serve as grim reminders of the sometimes deadly work of extracting resources often taken for granted. May 3 marked 130 years since the No. 1 Esplanade coal mine explosion in Nanaimo, British Columbia that left a death toll estimated between 148 and 153 men. May 9 marks the 25th anniversary of Plymouth, Nova Scotia’s Westray disaster, which killed 26 workers.

The 1887 Esplanade disaster ranks as Canada’s second-worst, after the June 1914 explosion at a Hillcrest, Alberta coal mine that killed 189 men. Esplanade was just one of many disasters that gave the Vancouver Island coal fields international notoriety for deadly working conditions. The loss of so many breadwinners devastated a population estimated between 2,000 and 6,500.

B.C. and Nova Scotia commemorate coal mining disasters

A monument to Westray displays 26 names as rays of light under
a stylized miner’s lamp. (Photo: Nova Scotia Federation of Labour)

“There would have been not one living soul in Nanaimo at the time who didn’t lose a family member, in-law, workmate or a friend,” local historian Tom Paterson told NanaimoNewsNOW.

In parallel with Esplanade and Vancouver Island, the 1992 carnage at Westray was one of a number of Pictou County coal mining disasters. Although not as lethal as many of its predecessors, Westray took place under supposedly modern conditions and enlightened attitudes.

The mine was owned by privately held Curragh Inc, whose board of directors included former federal cabinet minister and short-term Liberal prime minister John Turner, and Ralph Sultan, now running for re-election as a BC Liberal MLA in a vote coinciding with the anniversary. A five-year inquiry brought a report entitled The Westray Story: A Predictable Path to Disaster.

Curragh declared bankruptcy in 1993. As CBC reported, criminal charges against two mine managers, as well as 52 non-criminal charges against the company, went nowhere.

The disaster did bring about the 2004 federal Westray Act, which “provided new rules for attributing criminal liability to corporations and representatives when workers are injured or killed on the job,” CBC added.

Every May 3rd Nanaimo City Hall flies flags at half mast. Among May 9th events near Plymouth will be a morning vigil and evening memorial service at Westray Memorial Park in Stellarton.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba first and second globally as mining jurisdictions

March 1st, 2017

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2017

Saskatchewan edged one notch upwards to take first place worldwide while Manitoba soared from 19th to second in this year’s Fraser Institute survey of mining and exploration jurisdictions. Those two provinces pushed last year’s top performer, Western Australia, down to third place. Canada’s other top 10 spot went to Quebec, rising to sixth from eighth the year before. All continents but Antarctica came under scrutiny but Canadian, American, Australian and European locales monopolized the top 10.

Farther down the list, the strongest Canadian improvements were Newfoundland and Labrador, climbing to 16th from 25th, and the Northwest Territories, now 21st, previously 35th. Most disappointing were British Columbia (falling to 27th from 18th), Nunavut (31st from 23rd) and Alberta (47th from 34th).

Those findings come from the survey’s Investment Attractiveness Index, which combines two other indices—Policy Perception, a “report card” on government attitudes, and Best Practices Mineral Potential, concerning geological appeal. Representatives of 104 companies responded with their 2016 experiences in mind, giving a numerical rating to questions in several categories regarding their likelihood of investing in a particular jurisdiction. The previous year 109 companies responded.

Here’s the top 10 globally for overall investment attractiveness, with last year’s standings in parentheses:

1 Saskatchewan (2)

2 Manitoba (19)

3 Western Australia (1)

4 Nevada (3)

5 Finland (5)

6 Quebec (8)

7 Arizona (17)

8 Sweden (13)

9 Ireland (4)

10 Queensland (16)

Here are the Canadian runners-up:

15 Yukon (12)

16 Newfoundland and Labrador (25)

18 Ontario (15)

21 Northwest Territories (35)

27 British Columbia (18)

31 Nunavut (23)

40 New Brunswick (45)

47 Alberta (34)

52 Nova Scotia (59)

At least those provinces and territories steered far clear of the bottom 10, where Argentina figures prominently:

95 Mozambique (84)

96 Zimbabwe (98)

97 India (73)

98 Mendoza province, Argentina (101)

99 La Rioja province, Argentina (109)

100 Afghanistan (not available)

101 Chubut province, Argentina (104)

102 Venezuela (108)

103 Neuquen province, Argentina (93)

104 Jujuy province, Argentina (86)

“We believe that the survey captures, at least in broad strokes, the perceptions of those involved in both mining and the regulation of mining in the jurisdictions included in the survey,” stated authors Taylor Jackson and Kenneth P. Green.

Download the Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2016.