The most significant mineral discoveries in Canada the last two decades are the base-metal deposits found in the Ring of Fire.
The discoveries were made five years ago in the midst of a global economic crisis from which no economy has completely recovered. It is unreasonable to expect that any mineral deposit in a very remote region could be in production by 2016.
No one, not government, not industry, not Aboriginal communities, are to blame for the current hiatus in developing new mines in the Far North. Starting a new mine anywhere in Canada is very difficult.
For the last decade, Canada has been making major changes to the political relationships with Aboriginal communities. Some have gained, or retrieved, complete political control of the territories they inhabit, and many others are on a trajectory to achieve something similar, if in a more piecemeal or less organized fashion. The process may be slow and difficult but it is long overdue, and it is unstoppable.
The living conditions in most Northern communities in Ontario – not seen in the rest of the country for more than 80 years — are unacceptable in today’s Canada. The improvement in national living standards over this period was the result of an increase in economic activity that has yet to be re-introduced in the remote communities. I say “re-introduced” because all traditional communities in Ontario used to engage in the barter for goods and services in the fur trade. This will never regain the global importance it once had, but the development of mineral resources can provide an economic foundation.
This is globally important for mining because most new deposits will be developed in remote regions through negotiation with local inhabitants by respecting their cultural processes, and by raising living standards. Mining builds communities. But the interface between traditional lifestyles and modern business has to be permeable in both directions; companies must respect cultural traditions, and remote communities have to accept the pace at which mining projects must progress.
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