The Mining Frontier in Northwestern Ontario: Second Star to the Right, and Straight On Till Morning – by Livio Di Matteo (Northern Econmist – February 10, 2021)

Northwestern Ontario is seeing some good news with respect to the mining sector. One recognition of this was the recent announcement regarding Lakehead University and Impala Canada launching a new mining research project.

The five year project involves the creation of an industrial research chair in mineral exploration to be held by Lakehead University geologist Peter Hollings and it is good to see investment in regional knowledge. The prospects for continued growth have also been put forth by the Community Economic Development Corporation in their new mining readiness strategy which was announced this week.

The strategy is designed to help Thunder Bay capitalize on opportunities from the projected continued development in the region’s mining sector. It estimates that continued development of the sector with Thunder Bay benefiting from supply chain spillovers in mining supply, workforce training, transportation and electrical infrastructure, and research will be substantial.

The current six operating mines in the region may double to 15 essentially doubling the workforce from the current 3600 with peak employment reaching just over 7000 by 2028. However, there are challenges, not least of which is ensuring a supply of electricity as well as transport infrastructure.

This strategy is laden with optimism and good news as befits a municipal community economic development organization. The employment forecast is probably a bit rosy given that mining is not really a labor intensive activity and benefiting from the employment opportunities requires a lot of knowledge and skill intensive labor not least of which are skilled trades such as carpenters and plumbers – already in short supply in Thunder Bay given they are spending their time fixing leaky pipes – as well as trained technologists and scientists.

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