TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Canada’s current global mining leadership status should not be taken for granted, as mining investment dollars are highly mobile and global competition for it is fierce, Mining Association of Canada president and CEO Pierre Gratton told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday.
In a keynote address Gratton stressed the importance of keeping Canada's mining industry competitive for the benefit of both Quebec and Canada at large.
"Canada is currently a global mining powerhouse and its economic contributions reach far beyond the mine gate and the communities where we operate by providing high-paying jobs and spin-off business opportunities across the country," he said.
The MAC said Quebec is the third-largest mining region in Canada, and had been an important part of this growth, but the province had recently lost ground in relative terms.
Gratton noted that Quebec doubled the value of its mineral production over the past decade, but other provinces such as British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador had tripled, quadrupled and even sextupled the value of mineral production over the same period.
"I am concerned that mining growth in Quebec may fall off significantly due to the present policy direction of the government," said Gratton, referring to the expected tabling of new mining tax legislation by the Quebec government that could see high royalties and taxes placed on mining companies operating in the province.
"Quebec should be aiming to maintain its status as a sophisticated mining jurisdiction, one that understands that tax instability and higher royalties will drive away investment, economic development and employment."
By many accounts, Canada is one of the largest mining countries in the world. For example, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and the TSX Venture Exchange are home to 58% of the world's public mining companies. Canada is a top-five producer of uranium, potash, nickel, platinum, aluminium, diamonds, zinc and steel-making coal.
The nation’s reputation for being rich in resources also led to Canada landing the top spot for attracting world exploration spending in 2011, at 18%.
Canada's mineral production in the last two years surged to new heights. In 2011, mineral production value reached a record $50.3-billion. It declined in 2012 to $46.9-billion owing to some softening in the commodity market, but this figure essentially represented a return to the previous peak achieved in 2008.
From a Canada-wide perspective, a largely positive outlook for mineral and metal prices over the long term, supported by China and other emerging markets, underscored the opportunities for Canada.
However, for Canada to be able to grasp these, it had to remain competitive.
In his speech, Gratton stated that Canada must work to keep its competitiveness by maintaining low inflation, reducing debts, and preserving and improving competitive tax levels.
The country should also stay the course as a free trader and proactively engage the emerging markets, especially China, and improve the regulatory framework for mining projects, while keeping environmental protection a top priority.
Addressing the looming skills crisis in the mining sector, which was estimated to require 145 000 new workers over the next decade to replace retirees and fill new positions, was also a priority, as was investment in critical infrastructure to support new mining projects, including key transport needs such as ports, all-weather roads and rail.
"To maintain our leadership, we also have to remain leaders in responsible mining and act in a way that Canadians have confidence in. If we keep doing things right with our wealth of resources, Canadians will continue to thrive through the development and production of new mines here in Canada, the continued growth of our industry abroad, and the numerous spin-off economic and social benefits that flow from both," Gratton said.