This speech was given by the Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P., Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, on March 7, 2011 at the Prospector and Developers of Canada convention in Toronto, Canada.
Good morning. Bon matin à tous.
Whether you’ve come here from across the country or around the world, I’m delighted to welcome you on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Government of Canada.
I want to thank Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, for being here. His presence demonstrates that Aboriginal people have a shared interest in mining and development of our resource sector. It also, in turn, reflects the importance of exploration and mining to Canada’s Aboriginal communities.
Let me also welcome Peter Van Loan, Canada’s Minister of International Trade. And I would like to bring special greetings to the Honourable Laurence Golborne, Minister of Mines for Chile.
Minister Golborne, like everyone in this room, I was elated by the rescue of those 33 trapped miners last fall. I was born and raised in a mining town, and I know the close bonds that form not just between miners themselves but among their families.
So you can bet I was cheering along with the rest of the world when those miners were reunited with their loved ones. The rescue was an inspiration to all of us. And I hope that spirit and inspiration finds its way into all our talks at this conference.
Today, I’m proud to talk about the importance of exploration and mining to Canada and to our Government, which has remained, over the years, fully committed to this sector.
We’ve all experienced some difficult times in recent years.
The impact of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is still being felt, very deeply, in many countries.
But in Canada, although our economy is still fragile and we need to be cautious, we can still say with confidence that Canada is a leader in the global economic recovery.
There are several reasons for that.
First, Canada was in a strong position when our economy slipped into a recession.
Thanks to prudent fiscal management in the past, our government was able to respond with a timely and targeted Economic Action Plan for Canada.
Our Economic Action Plan investments, together with those of our partners, continue to keep Canadians working. We are protecting Canadian families and businesses from the worst impacts of the recession. And we are strengthening the foundation for greater prosperity in the future.
Support for exploration and mining
Certainly, this Government remains committed to the exploration and mining sector, and for good reason.
The sector is still the lifeblood for more than 100 rural, northern and Aboriginal communities. But more than that, it remains a mainstay of our national economy.
After all, in 2009, the industry generated more than $32 billion toward our Gross Domestic Product. I expect the figures for 2010 to be even more promising, and the outlook for this year is better still.
Let me give you a few examples of how this Government is helping your sector get positioned for economic recovery.
We have an overall tax rate on new business investment that is substantially lower than in any other G-7 country.
We’ve implemented measures to help ensure access to credit and capital financing.
We’ve extended the accelerated capital cost allowance on machinery and equipment.
And, last year, ministers from across Canada committed to continue to improve regulatory review processes, including the pursuit of a “one project–one assessment” approach with the provinces.
My department has taken the first steps toward this by setting up the Major Projects Management Office. Following its third year of operations, the Office is now managing over 60 project reviews, representing approximately $100 billion of potential new investment in communities across Canada. About half of these major projects are in the mining sector.
I also want to mention our Green Mining Initiative, which is helping to reduce the environmental impacts of mining in four key ways: footprint reduction, innovation in waste management, ecosystem risk management, and mine closure and rehabilitation.
All these supportive measures for your sector are designed with one goal in mind: to promote good governance so that we sharpen Canada’s competitiveness, productivity and capacity for innovation.
And what’s more, this helps us to attract the knowledge, capital and global networks that Canada needs to stay competitive.
Foreign investment helps create high-paying jobs. It supports technology transfer, and it enhances both innovation and productivity.
And the world has clearly taken note of the opportunities in Canada.
Since 2005, the stock of foreign investment in Canada’s mining industry has risen by 150 percent. I’m sure my colleague, the Honourable Peter Van Loan, will be pleased to tell you more about that later this morning.
Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy
Even as we’re attracting foreign investment to our soil, Canada is keenly aware that our own exploration and mining sector is looking for opportunities elsewhere. After all, Canadian firms have mining interests in more than 8,000 properties in 120 countries. In addition, mining assets abroad by Canadian companies have grown significantly, from $30 billion USD in 2002 to over $109 billion USD in 2009.
In those countries where they operate, Canadian mining, oil and gas companies provide jobs for thousands of people. In so doing, they create economic growth and development. But that’s not enough.
Like Canada, other countries are interested in companies that are committed to socially and environmentally responsible performance. Canadian companies are overwhelmingly good corporate citizens. That said, the Government and industry are working hard to raise the bar even higher.
For our part, the Government launched a new Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy in 2009 to help the Canadian extractive sector meet — and exceed — its social and environmental responsibilities abroad.
Canada’s exploration and mining sector has taken leadership on this important issue. PDAC’s E3-Plus Framework for Responsible Exploration, for example, is packed full of useful tools relating to social responsibility, environmental stewardship, and health and safety.
Government, industry and NGOs are working together in unparalleled cooperation. In 2010, for example, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, in consultation with the federal government, industry, civil society, academia, indigenous representatives and expert practitioners, launched the Corporate Social Responsibility Centre of Excellence, which provides one-stop shopping for Corporate Social Responsibility best practices. Through the centre, companies and environmental organizations that are traditionally in opposition are now working together to increase the impact of socially responsible exploration and mining practices.
The Importance of Public Geoscience
I’ve spoken about how the Government of Canada is committed to good governance and how we’re encouraging industry to be good corporate citizens. But there’s another key element that sets Canada apart, and that’s our commitment to publicly funded geoscience.
Consider, for a moment, all those rural, mineral-based communities that are the backbone of our economy. They need industry to invest in exploration — to make the new discoveries that will create jobs, foster economic growth and strengthen the resilience of their communities.
But, as you know, any lack of knowledge about untapped natural resources makes it risky and expensive to pursue exploration. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Canada’s North, where 60 percent of the terrain has not yet been mapped to modern standards of geology.
Private investors need the right knowledge to invest in our natural resources. And governments need the right knowledge to make informed land-use decisions, such as the creation of protected areas.
That’s why the Government of Canada has a 10-year plan to update the geoscience knowledge base in our North. As a first step, we’ve invested $100 million over five years for the Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals program.
So far, the Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals program has completed three successful field seasons and generated some impressive results. Listen to these numbers:
•20 projects in the three territories and in the northern parts of six provinces;
•24 regional geophysical surveys; and
•310 new geoscientific maps.
In addition, I’m pleased to announce that we are releasing 11 new maps today and another 20 maps on April 1 ― both sets achieved through accelerated geophysical survey work in key areas of Nunavut.
I invite you to visit my department’s exhibit, which is number 423, to obtain more information on those releases.
Renewal of the Targeted Geoscience Initiative
We’ve generated terrific information through the Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals program, but we need better knowledge and detection methods to find hidden mineral deposits.
That’s why the Government of Canada renewed the Targeted Geoscience Initiative in last year’s federal budget, with a proposed investment of $12 million over two years.
The Targeted Geoscience Initiative works in partnership with the provinces, territories, industry and universities to generate knowledge that will lower the risk of deep mineral exploration for the private sector.
I am very pleased to announce that our Government has not only renewed the Targeted Geoscience Initiative, it has more than doubled its budget and timelines. We are now investing $25 million over five years.
Both these programs are investments in good governance. For every dollar spent on public geoscience, the industry invests five dollars in new exploration. And that typically leads to approximately $125 in discovered resources.
Public geoscience helps address the decline in base and precious metal reserves in Canada. It attracts investment and sharpens our global competitiveness. And it creates new jobs in rural communities.
Exploration and mining has long been a cornerstone of our economy, and we intend to keep it that way.
The Government of Canada believes in the future of exploration and mining in this country. We believe there may be untold riches beneath the earth awaiting discovery. And we believe that, with some government support, the private sector ― either in Canada or abroad ― can bring these riches to the surface.
That’s why we’ve listened carefully to industry and taken steps to improve governance, like setting up the Major Projects Management Office to simplify the project review process. We’re continuing to work with stakeholders on this issue. And it’s why I’ve announced we will more than double our investment in the Targeted Geoscience Initiative. Together, government and industry will keep Canada an exploration and mining giant.
The Government is proud to work with the PDAC and its members ― not just for the sake of your sector, but for all Canadians whose prosperity depends on keeping alive one of our most important traditions.
I wish you a very productive conference. Thank you. Merci beaucoup.