Mining Super Cluster Denied But Doesn’t Deter Regional Expansion – by Dick DeStefano (March 2, 2018)

Dick DeStefano is the Executive Director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA).

I am disappointed by the Canadian Federal Government’s recent decision to ignore a request by CEMI and CMIC and multiple partners to grow our mining and related sector in Canada. It was not chosen as a priority in their Super Cluster competition and remains on the fringe of the government agenda.

But the results will not deter the existing cluster to move its agenda forward in the next years and expand its presence in the global market. A significant effort has been invested in establishing a viable infrastructure and cooperative effort by multiple partners within Northern Ontario and that effort will continue as we move forward.

It’s not a lack of information because our review indicates that over 20 profiles have been published in the past two years and the case study recently released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities illustrates the shift from an extractive mining sector to a world class mining intelligence sector.

We could spend literally hours on the importance of statistics in the mining supply sector and its importance as a wealth creator but it obviously had little impact on a federal supercluster proposition and competition. It is difficult to understand why we were ignored and what criteria were used in the final selection. What were we missing?

The formation of the CLEER supercluster was the first time in history that the primary and secondary mining industry partners collaborated on a national level. Many synergies were developed during the application process and this momentum will continue.

The path forward will be to select key projects that are in alignment with the strategic objectives of the various primary industry partners. Canadian SMEs will be given an opportunity to align with these key projects and will be encouraged to work with the existing academic and funding institutions.

The CLEER proposal for funding was in the hands of Industry and government agencies and very few others have seen its composition. Below is an extremely brief summary of the proposal for your information.

November 24, 2017 Executive Summary

“The CLEER (Clean, Low-energy, Effective, Engaged and Remediated) Supercluster will inspire the current innovation ecosystem to come together to tackle the global mining challenges of energy intensity, water use, and environmental impact. Bold and ambitious targets have been set at 50% reduction in each of these areas by 2027.

CLEER will enable emerging clean technologies by inclusively engaging the mining services and supply sector, innovators and mining companies to accelerate collaborative innovation and stimulate investments exceeding $5B all while growing Canadian companies, improving productivity, initiating export pathways and creating/retaining more than 100,000 middle-class jobs.
The CLEER supercluster will position Canada as a global leader in supplying both clean resources and clean technology, as well as in the responsible sourcing of metals.

This is essential for clean growth given that the Canadian mining sector is a key global provider of the raw materials used as inputs for the development of clean technologies all contributing to the clean energy transition. A total accumulated economic impact of greater than $115B is anticipated for Canada over the next 10 years”.

A recent publication by IFOR FfOWCS-Williams, whom I met a year ago in Sudbury has developed the Cluster Development Handbook-A Practical Guide to the Development of Clusters and Smart Specializations and has provided an insightful and detailed description of the global growth of clusters.

Do We Have a Cluster in Sudbury and Northern Ontario?

IFOR FfOWCS-Williams— Criteria

•Does the cluster sell its products /services to other regions (as opposed to within its own region)?
• Are the cluster’s firms geographically concentrated?
• Is the concentration of firms in this area significantly higher than in neighbouring areas?
• Is there a clearly definable core activity in the cluster?
• Does the cluster have locally based suppliers of specialised inputs, machinery or services?
• Are there locally based supporting institutions (e.g. a university, government agency, R&D institute, vocational training centre, and industry association) that cater specifically to the cluster?
•Would outsiders say without prompting that the region is known for this activity?

The answer is yes to all questions for the Northern Ontario Cluster.

There is renewed interest in Northern Ontario in taking its existing mining cluster and owning its agenda and moving forward to make the Sudbury Mining Cluster globally renowned.

It should happen sooner than later.