Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.
The decision by the Ontario government to protect its boreal forests north of the 51st parallel continues to be discussed by CMJ readers and environmentalists.
Predictably, leading North American academics support the plan. They praised protection of a “vital ecosystem”. They figuratively patted the Premier on the back for his “long-term vision, recognizing that storing carbon, protecting biodiversity, and traditional lifestyles and maintaining freshwater supplies are more important than immediate profits.” These people don’t depend on the mineral industry for their income, but I’m sure they all enjoy the myriad of consumer goods made possible by it.
Some CMJ readers were understandably upset at the provincial announcement. “Another North American jurisdiction that would rather have trees and swamps than jobs and wealth generated at a time when the manufacturing industry in Ontario is tanking,” wrote Vancouver’s Darin Wagner, president and CEO of West Timmins Mining . “This kind of announcement shows a complete and total lack of understanding of the minimal impact that exploration and mining have on the local environment. Yet another example of a politician jumping on the ‘global warming’ bandwagon to collect a few votes from the ‘urban greens’ at the expense of the resource communities which have been the backbone of his/her economy. Really makes you wonder if any of these folks ever leave their cushy air conditioned offices in the provincial capitals and exactly who is providing them with advice. Very disappointing.”
Or more succinctly, one correspondent put it this way: “Another proof that Mr. McGuinty lacks in judgement (as if we need one!). This man and his party should not have been re-elected. Conserving environment is really important, but creating jobs is, too!”
Martin Bobinski of Red Lake, Ontario, sent a suggestion aimed at making the government realize the importance of mining to its economy. “Perhaps it is time for the producing mining companies to look for ways to reduce taxable dollars by supporting much needed local community infrastructure requirements and decreasing the amount of taxes paid to the province. A few blows to the pocketbook may help to bring some common sense to the table,” he suggested
I have been taken to task by one reader, NRCan’s Doug Panagapko. He wrote: “I don’t see anywhere in the Premier’s announcement that the area north of 51 will be ‘permanently removed’ from mineral exploration and mining. Exploration and mining companies would be required to more actively consult with aboriginal communities and other stakeholders during the exploration/mining process, an approach which is certainly taken by the vast majority of the industry players now anyway.”
Our correspondent is correct. I have re-read the press release and not found any reference to the permanent exclusion of mining from these lands. However, I remain sceptical that the mineral industry will have access to protected forests. The province has given itself 10 to 15 years to put its plan in place, and that is a long time to wait for an outcome that may be negative for the industry.
There may be some good to come out of the provincial proposal if Garry Clark, executive director of the Ontario Prospectors Association, is correct. He was quoted in a Canwest News Service article as saying, “Right now, there’s no good mapping in the north outside of some rivers and tributaries. If the government feeds a bunch of data in there and can get us better [drilling] targets, then we’re way better off. We’re not 100 per cent sure they’re going to do it properly, so we’ve got to give it a chance.”
Maybe there is a glimmer of hope after all.