Growth Strategy for the Future of the Canadian Mining Industry
Natural Resources Canada
Christyne Tremblay is Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)’s Deputy Minister. Prior to joining NRCan, she served as Deputy Minister in several departments in the Government of Quebec, including Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change; Energy and Natural Resources; Higher Education, Research, and Science and Technology; and Economic Development, Innovation and Export. She also held executive positions in Quebec’s departments of Finance; Industry and Commerce; and International Relations.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is the department of Canada’s federal government focused on the responsible development and use of Canada’s natural resources, and the competitiveness of Canada’s natural resources products. It is an established leader in science and technology in the fields of energy, forests, and minerals and metals. It develops policies and programs that enhance the contribution of the natural resources sector to the Canadian economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.
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1- The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan is a vision for the future of Canada’s mining industry. To develop the mining industry of the future we need full collaboration, precise understanding of the challenges our mining industry faces today and boldness to implement a Plan to boost competitiveness.
2- Government is working to balance the timely approval of mining projects with the need for high regulatory standards.
3- Canadian companies can have an even greater positive impact on the global industry by providing more solutions to companies around the world; developing the type of mines we envision for the future; establishing best practices; employing a more diverse labour force, and; fully committing to renewable energy and reducing waste.
The mining sector is perceived as the old economy and that perception needs to change. We must reconnect with our youth as they are an important missing link to propelling the new cleantech and sustainable mining industry. We must prioritize this to ensure the successful transformation of our industry, our competitiveness and our vision for a cleaner sector.
How significant is the Canadian mining industry to our economy and its importance to our daily lives?
The Canadian mining industry is vital to our economy. Canada produces 60 minerals and metals at 200 active mines, and operates over 7,000 sand, gravel and stone pits. In 2017, our mineral production totalled $44 billion, accounting for 5% of Canada’s GDP and 19% of total domestic exports.
But numbers aside, Canadians often don’t make the connection between mining operations and everyday products. The focus is typically on the extraction activity. But our daily lives orbit around the industry. Almost every tool designed to help us is manufactured with metals and minerals extracted from our mining sites, from construction material to vehicles, to furniture to computers and cell phones.
Canadians and Indigenous communities that live near mining sites have firsthand experience of the mining industry’s socioeconomic benefits. Indigenous communities are very involved in the sector as key partners in many projects and also as part of the labour force. But, the mining industry is very intertwined with all Canadians’ lives, regardless of proximity. And many years of experience and learnings have shaped the industry to operate responsibly.
Why was the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP) created? Are you confident that with it, we are positioning ourselves to be leaders in the industry?
The mining industry has evolved. It faces new challenges and Canada’s mining industry is facing international competition from new players that it must contend with. We need to improve our strategy for our mining sector and position it as a supplier of choice, ready with best-in-class products that meet the demand of a modern and clean economy.
Canadian companies can have an even greater positive impact on the global industry by providing more solutions to companies around the world; developing the type of mines we envision for the future; establishing best practices; employing a more diverse labour force, and; fully committing to renewable energy and reducing waste.
NRCan worked on the CMMP over the last year and a half with all the provinces, territories, innovators, civil society, industry, Indigenous groups, and other key stakeholders. With their different perspectives and insights, we identified key priorities to focus on in order for our mining industry to excel: economic development and competitiveness; advancing the participation of Indigenous peoples; the environment; science, technology and innovation; communities; and global leadership. I am confident that the CMMP will help realize our vision that Canada is the leading mining nation, and will be for years to come.. It’s a foundation for Canadian mining success at the national and international level.
We now have consensus among key stakeholders on the main issues facing the industry, and the areas for action But, to truly succeed we need continued collaboration and commitment from partners and stakeholders to identify and pursue specific measures we can take under the Plan.
“Many countries are aggressively competing for mining capital. But, by building on our strengths and positioning ourselves to respond to new opportunities, we believe the CMMP is a powerful, pan-Canadian initiative to attract investment and deliver benefits for Canadians.”
The thing to remember is that we’re not the only country fighting for key investment. Many countries are aggressively competing for mining capital. But, by building on our strengths and positioning ourselves to respond to new opportunities, we believe the CMMP is a powerful, pan-Canadian initiative to attract investment and deliver benefits for Canadians. That’s our goal.
What do you think the Canadian mining industry expects or wants your ministry and the government to do most to support its development?
The Canadian mining industry is asking for a very competitive fiscal framework and agile regulation. I agree that in order to stay globally competitive, this is the right mindset.
We are working on Bill C-69 to improve the way we conduct impact assessments in Canada. The bill has been well received by the mining sector. We believe that if we engage much earlier with Indigenous communities and Canadians near mining operations, we will be able to build better projects that will get approved by the new regulatory system. Refined timelines, benchmarking and monitoring will generate more supporters, investor confidence and government support.
We also worked on the 2018 Fall Economic Statement to set a new mandate to analyze regulations on a sectoral basis to make speedier project approvals. We are working with various entities to develop regulations that are outcome-based, and not constrained by a rigid frame. This will provide more flexibility to the mining industry, allow us to reach our economic goals, and enable innovation.
Another challenge that has been voiced is the lack of infrastructure. Of course, infrastructure as in roads and ports in the North. But there is also the digital infrastructure to consider. Electronic grids will need to be deployed as electric fleets become standard in the industry. NRCan will play a role in that discussion and support mining developments that integrate better ways to manage and generate energy.
“We are working with various entities to develop regulations that are outcome-based, and not constrained by a rigid frame. This will provide more flexibility to the mining industry, allow us to reach our economic goals, and enable innovation.”
These are the main requests we have received from the mining industry. Our responsibility is to find the right balance. The one between setting the highest standards, and giving mining companies leeway to innovate.
How is our mining industry connected to the rising cleantech economy, and what opportunities does this present?
Solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and more are examples of innovative technologies stimulating the cleantech economy. Canada has the minerals and metals needed to for these innovative technologies. So, our mining and energy expertise position us to benefit largely from the cleantech economy, which is a $1 trillion industry.
Canadian mining companies are showing great leadership on this front and are on the right path to improve operations in Canada and abroad. We are proud to see this leadership in action. For example, Ontario has the first electric fleet at a mine and it is proving to be a success. Other initiatives include moving towards zero waste mining sites; exploring new ways to extract metals and minerals from mine waste; and finding the best solutions for water consumption and recycling.
We have high expectations of seeing cleantech transform our mining operations. With increased focus on the intersection between mining and cleantech we could lead the development of the mining sites of the future, strengthening our position as a global mining leader.
One key element to achieving this is focusing on Canadian youth. The mining sector is perceived as the old economy and that perception needs to change. We must reconnect with our youth as they are an important missing link to propelling the new cleantech and sustainable mining industry. We must prioritize this to ensure the successful transformation of our industry, our competitiveness and our vision for a cleaner sector.
What role should the government play in funding and incentivizing the development of mining tech?
There are many ways the government can support mining tech and our part is to be an enabler and supporter of the right innovation. One approach is through Economic Strategy Tables, a new model for industry-government collaboration, focused on turning key Canadian industries, such as natural resources and clean technology, into global advantages.
This year we also launched the Crush-It! Mining Challenge. We invested $10 million in this program and look forward to seeing the top minds in Canada come together to find the bests solution to reduce our energy consumption in the mining sector.
What is your view on our international opportunities to attract investment in our mining and in our mining technology sectors?
Canada’s capital markets, the transparency, ethics, robust reputations and the technological expertise of our mining companies, have resulted in securing many international relationships and mining projects abroad that are operated by Canadian firms. Canada’s commitment to innovation and sustainable mineral development at home create opportunities for Canadian firms around the globe. I think this is a very good foundation from which to continue to develop international opportunities, but it is probably not enough and we should look further to make more progress.
I am very confident about the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which will position Canada as the only G7 nation with free trade access to the Americas, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. Evidently, there are a lot of international opportunities for our mining industry to capture, specifically in innovation and sustainable mineral development on a national and international basis.