Mining companies need Ottawa’s help to solve shortage of workers – by Peter O’Neil (Vancouver Sun – January 29, 2013)

Report says lack of skilled employees already causing costly mistakes

OTTAWA — Vancouver, Toronto and Sudbury are to Canada what Hollywood and Silicon Valley are to the U.S. — cities with a cluster of businesses built around a major industry that competes globally.

But the world-class industry in those Canadian cities — mining — needs government help, says a report to be released Wednesday.

According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce report, world-competitive industries emerge when they attract a large cluster of related companies to a particular area, such as Metro Vancouver, allowing for increased competition, economies of scale and innovation.

But, the report warns, renewed federal government efforts are needed if mining is to continue to attract and maintain the “clusters” of companies it needs — in finance, insurance, manufacturing and more — to Vancouver, Toronto and Sudbury.

The top challenge for governments is to help the industry resolve the skilled worker shortage “crisis” that, according to the report, is increasingly resulting in costly mistakes in mining operations.

“As large mining projects grow increasingly complex, the lack of experienced individuals is causing errors, cost overruns and delays that are hampering the competitiveness of mining firms,” the report said, citing comments from a mining industry insider.

Despite the concerns, the report paints a rosy picture of the sector and its ability to create industrial “clusters” of interrelated companies, industry associations and academic research.

“Toronto is the global capital of mining finance, British Columbia has the largest concentration of mining exploration firms in the world and Sudbury has a century of history as a mining centre and over a dozen mines operating within city limits,” states a summary of the report provided to The Vancouver Sun.

“Canadian mining hubs like Toronto, Vancouver and Sudbury should be counted with Hollywood and Silicon Valley as examples of competitive clusters where the various firms and organizations that compose the sector both cooperate and compete to create formidable competitive advantage.”

B.C., for instance, is home to more than 1,200 mining exploration companies, or a little over half the national total. There are another 2,400 companies in B.C. supplying the mining sector.

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