The Mining Association of Canada: Seize the opportunity to do more [for Canada Mining]

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC)’s mission is to promote, through the collective action of members, the growth and development of Canada’s mining and mineral-processing industry, for the benefit of all Canadians.

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

On behalf of the Mining Association of Canada, please accept our congratulations on the result of the May 2 federal election and your re-election with a majority mandate.  This mandate provides you with a great opportunity to continue addressing the economic and social challenges that face our nation.  We would like to use this opportunity to offer views from Canada’s mining industry with respect to some of the priority issues we believe should be addressed during your mandate.

The Canadian mining industry is a key contributor to Canada’s economic strength and is currently experiencing a marked resurgence driven by strong commodity prices, stimulating new investment, rising exploration, and growing exports. The industry accounts for some 19 per cent of Canadian exports, contributes over $10 billion in annual payments to governments, and provides business for 3,200 supplier companies, including around half of the freight revenue of Canada’s railroads. 

While important in remote communities, the industry also generates prosperity in our major cities — Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatoon — all feature areas of global mining leadership.  The Canadian industry is viewed internationally as a leader in the corporate social responsibility field, making large investments in education and health-care facilities, nutrition programs, and community facilities in developing countries. The industry also reports progress each year against the mandatory social and environmental requirements of MAC’s respected Towards Sustainable Mining initiative.

The existing contribution of Canada’s mining sector, however, is expanding. The current strong resurgence in commodity prices, driven by emerging markets, is creating new opportunities for growth and investment in Canada’s mining sector not seen in a generation.  Several new mining projects are in construction across Canada while many others are in advanced stages of development, promising billions of dollars in new investment and thousands of jobs in every region of the country.  Mineral exploration has rebounded from the 2008 economic crisis and Canada continues to attract the largest share of global exploration spending.  In this regard, it is important that companies have a stable and attractive business environment in which to invest.  We would like to acknowledge several measures taken by your government in recent years, notably:

•Ongoing reductions in Canada’s corporate tax rate.
•Continued support for enhanced flow-through shares.
•Support for strategic infrastructure investments including the Northwest Transmission Line, Pacific Gateway, and recent commitments to enable Ridley Terminals to raise capital to finance much needed additional capacity.
•Reforms to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, reducing front-end delays and providing for better management of federal environmental assessments.
To seize the current opportunity, however, more must be done. We encourage the federal government to continue its approach on fiscal management, regulatory reform, and on ensuring the competitiveness of our transportation system, including through strategic infrastructure investments.

In particular, we believe that the Fisheries Act should be amended and workable regulations implemented to improve the protection of Canada’s fisheries, with a compliance process that is proportionate to risk. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act should be amended to recognize provincial processes that meet or exceed minimum federal requirements as being equivalent to the federal process — such that a one-project, one-assessment approach is adopted.  The federal government should also improve co-ordination with provincial First Nations consultation processes and continue supporting much-needed Aboriginal skills and employment programs.

As a major customer, the mining industry requires good service and investment in modern facilities on the part of Canada’s transport and logistics industries.  Toward this end, the importance of efficient and competitively priced rail service and inter-modal links should continue to be emphasized by your government through implementation of the Rail Service Review commitments made in early-2011.

Strategic investment by government in transportation and electrical capacity can also serve to open new regions for mineral exploration and development.  The planned extension of the Monts Otish highway in northern Quebec would improve future prospects for development of many potential projects in the surrounding region.

In the Far North, investment is needed in in all-weather roads and sea ports.  In Nunavut, an estimated $10 billion in potential base and precious metal developments over the coming years would be enabled by the Bathurst Inlet Port and Road project, with significant potential economic benefits also flowing from railroad and port investments near the Mary River iron ore project.  Your government’s majority mandate provides an exciting opportunity to play a supportive role in such areas.

There are other priorities that we share with the broader business community, including support for international trade and investment negotiations, the need for a renewed focus on skills development, and a desire to see enhanced support of the sector’s innovation.

Improving these, together with the regulatory and infrastructure priorities discussed in this letter, would provide a strong footing for sustained investment in a globally competitive Canadian mining industry.  This would generate benefit across many facets of the Canadian economy.

We wish your government best of success as you implement your plans and policies during the coming mandate.