Postponement to Mining Act revisions good for industry Currently, mining is the only cash cow left of the province's four main industries so tampering with it would be more than foolhardy, it would be economic suicide.
Postponement to Act revisions good for Ontario's mining industry
Posted 17 hours ago
When it comes to timing mining cycles or stock movements, when everyone believes something it usually turns out that they are wrong.
The 10-year boom in commodities turned out to be less than four years and no one knows when it will resume.
Yet, there is a bright side for the Canadian mining industry, and especially the Ontario segment. The provincial government has postponed its planned revisions to the Ontario Mining Act.
Bowing to several pressure groups, the McGuinty government had intended to ram through major changes before the new year. The world-wide meltdown in credit facilities brought the Liberals to their senses.
Ontario has four major industries -- new vehicle and parts manufacturing, mining, forestry and tourism. Even before the housing crisis in the United States spread into every sector of the world economy, the forest industry was written off by Queen's Park.
Tourism was in a slump and asking for McGuinty to spend millions of dollars to get our southern neighbours crossing the border again.
The culprit was basically the high Canadian dollar in terms of the U. S. dollar but still the tourist industry was expecting help, the kind of help that the forestry industry was refused.
With the new vehicle sector seeking billions of dollars in assistance and the parts sector lined up behind it for help, Ontario faces a sharp decline in tax revenues.
McGuinty in early November was projecting a $500 million deficit but the final figure is likely to be much higher.
So, the situation is this: the only major industry still pouring tax revenues into Queen's Park is mining and its allied supply and services operations. And we must not forget the personal taxes paid by the workers.
Canada is not as heavily dependent on consumer spending as is the U. S. but it still plays a significant role in keeping the national economy healthy.Miners spend their pay cheques where they live and therefore firms from coffee shops to department stores maintain their workforces and pay taxes.
When the province announced in August a short consultation period for the Mining Act changes, industry spokespersons were loud in their complaints but the major noise came from Aboriginal groups.
They were certainly correct that this would be their first opportunity to have real input into a piece of legislation that touches on so many of their concerns, ranging from a piece of the royalty pie to infringements on their legal rights and use of their traditional lands.
The Oct. 15 deadline was first moved to Nov. 15 to give Aboriginal organizations more time to consider the province's suggested areas of consultation (although nonnative groups were bound by the original date) and on Nov. 13 it became Jan. 15 for everyone.
There is no doubt that the auto industry is Ontario's most important industry, employing 400,000 people and generating $28 billion in economic activity annually.
That it is important to Canada is also beyond question. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty notes 90 per cent of our vehicle production goes to the U. S. What the bureaucrats in the Ontario finance ministry must have realized in recent weeks is the importance of the mining industry.
This province produces 28 per cent of the nation's minerals, with an approximate value of $10.8 billion and employs 100,000 Ontarians directly and indirectly.
Also important is the fact that mining pays higher wages than any other industrial sector.
Mining will not be immune if the world slips from recession status into a depression but industry executives know mining is cyclical in nature and good times are always followed by bad ones.
Currently, mining is the only cash cow left of the province's four main industries so tampering with it would be more than foolhardy, it would be economic suicide.
As for the new deadline for the Mining Act changes, it is a safe bet that it will be extended well past Jan. 15. There are three key factors in the setting of a realistic timetable: two are political and one is based on economics.
The first and most important political reason is the fact that the U. S. got the world into the present economic mess and it will have to lead it out of the swamp.
President George Bush is a lame duck Republican president who will be out of office on Jan. 20 but has even less power than previous lame ducks in that the Democratic Party now controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
What in-coming Democratic president Barack Obama will do is not known but whatever steps he eventually takes are months, even years, away from being effective.
Since at this time the full effects of the world-wide financial crunch are not known and world leaders are hesitant to take concrete action until they can see the full picture, Ontario should not take any moves to harm its mining industry.
The second political reason is the request by some Ontario Aboriginal leaders to have the consultative deadline extended.
Chief Donny Morris wants at least one year for native groups to consult and to reach a consensus on their position.
By extending the deadline well into 2009, McGuinty will build up political capital with native groups and buy time to see if some of the drastic measures being proposed to revive confidence in financial institutions succeed.
The economic reason is that achieving an end to financial forces battering the Ontario economy are basically beyond its control.
The federal government has some say in any eventual success but it must be repeated that Canadians must await action by the U. S. and the other major industrialized nations.
The U. S. is willing to spend trillions of dollars, Canada billions of dollars and the rest of the industrialized nations more trillions but first clear objectives must be established to restore economic stability.
To his credit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an economist by profession, has stated he will allow Canada to fall into a deficit position, but only if it becomes necessary.
Uncertainty abounds and in such times governments must move cautiously.
In today's world everything is interconnected; think of breaking a single strand of a spider's web without being able to discern the importance of that strand to the integrity of the entire web.Article ID# 1322633
The farming community of Tiny Township in Ontario is home to something entirely unique — a series of bubbling artesian wells that contain some of the cleanest and most abundant fresh water on the planet.
The water in the Alliston aquifer is so pure that it equates to Arctic ice core samples taken from snows deposited 10,000 years ago, before the advent of modern industry and its resulting pollution.
But a proposed landfill, Dump Site 41, is slated to be built smack on top of the Alliston aquifer, and if it goes ahead the residents of Tiny Township are worried that this precious resource will be destroyed forever.
A rally outside the Ontario legislature last Friday was part of the ongoing fight to stop Site 41 — a fight that started 30 years ago. The fight continues despite the approval of the landfill by the Ontario government and despite a 16-15 vote in favour of it by the County of Simcoe.
“We don't need the dump, it's not necessary, and it's the worst place you could ever build a dump in the County of Simcoe,” says Stephen Ogden, a member of the Site 41 Community Monitoring Committee.
As part of the Queen's Park rally, Ogden and Mohawk elder and environmentalist Danny Beaton undertook a five-day 120-kilometre “walk for water” from Tiny Township to Toronto. They want the provincial government to stop the landfill and hope to convince county councillors to overturn their “razor-thin” decision.
Dr. William Shotyk, a geochemistry professor at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, has called water from the Alliston aquifer “the best water on earth.” Shotyk, whose family owns property near Tiny Township, came to that conclusion after testing the water in a sophisticated laboratory he runs at the university to analyze contaminants in prehistoric ice.
There are many shallow aquifers connected to Alliston aquifer, and opponents of the dump fear that a synthetic liner intended to prevent leakage will not be entirely effective, resulting in the contamination of surrounding water. The upward motion of the water is also supposed to help prohibit leakage.
Initially, the proposal for a landfill in that spot was rejected after a 70-day environmental assessment hearing back in 1989. However, the government intervened and through an Order in Council overturned that decision.
A permit is needed to remove such a large amount of water, and right now this is the only thing stopping the site from going ahead. The permit is currently being reviewed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE), says spokesperson Kate Jordan.
“We want to assure the residents that we won't issue a permit until more experts are confident that the proposal is scientifically sound and that the site will be operated in an environmentally responsible way that will ensure the protection of the surrounding watershed.”
Jordan says that while MOE is aware of Shotyk's studies and of the opposition to Site 41, the landfill was approved because the ministry was satisfied that it would be built in a way that would not damage the environment.
“The approval that we gave set out conditions to ensure that the landfill would be constructed using state of the art engineering techniques so that the groundwater would be protected as well as the surface water to ensure that there is no impact on drinking water,” says Jordan.
While Simcoe County maintains current landfill capacity for the region is only seven to eight years, Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop says there's about “35 years of capacity in other areas of the county” and therefore Site 41 is not necessary.
A former county councillor, Dunlop says he was in favour of the project until the Walkerton tragedy, when six people died from contaminated water — and until he actually went and visited the proposed site.
“I went there and the water was actually bubbling out of the ground. We were just told by the ministry staff that it was a good site for a dump and we never really objected to it. But since Walkerton when people died it's time to start paying a lot more attention.”
There's a precedent in place for pulling out of the project, says Dunlop, citing the Adams Mine in northern Ontario which was also earmarked for a landfill.
“Legislation was put through for that and all the approvals were in place and the government did a complete reversal and it was because water seeped into the bottom and created a lake of about a hectare in size.”
The Adams Mine Lake Act was subsequently passed which prevents any lake more than one hectare in size from being used as a landfill. Tiny Township residents believe this applies to Site 41, because once the hole for the dump is dug it will fill up to more than a hectare if it isn't continuously pumped out.
Ogden believes building yet another dump is the wrong way to go when Ontario Environment Minister John Garretson is promoting zero waste for the province, and with zero waste initiatives catching on in many countries.
“We just need to change the way we do things,” he says.
The ministry will “closely monitor” construction and operations at the site, Jordan says, adding that there's a condition in the agreement that the county has to fund an environmental inspector. But these reassurances are not enough, says Ogden.
“They're trying to convince us it will be safe, but I don't think so. You can imagine how we all feel. We have this beautiful farm land, and we're risking this incredibly pure water and we don't have to.”