Archive | Canadian Media Resource Articles

Can Coal-to-Hydrocarbons Replace Oil? – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

Like our readers, we at Canadain Mining Journal have watched the price of crude oil skyrocket and heard the voices of the “greens” calling for a more environmentally friendly energy source.

We don’t usually comment on the oil industry except the massive mining operations of the Alberta oil sands. The oil sands have been roundly criticized as one of the least environmentally friendly fuel sources. Their mining and processing could be made cleaner with a liberal injection of money, but the oil sands still produce conventional hydrocarbons in the end.

Ethanol has been suggested as a replacement for hydrocarbons. But the use of corn, rice and wheat in the manufacture of ethanol has played a major part in the rise of food staple prices, placing an unbearable burden on the world’s most disadvantaged people.

Coal, of course, is the second most popular energy source, behind hydrocarbons. It has a reputation of being dangerous to mine and dirty to burn. Continue Reading →

More Mines, Lower Commodity Prices on Horizon – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

We have all heard that “timing is everything”, and that truism applies as much to mine development as to anything. It seems that there is a growing number of new mines planned in Canada just as analysts warn of major corrections in commodities prices.

Softer prices are a result of a strengthening U.S. dollar, according to analysts. Oil prices have dropped to a three-month low, if one considers $119/bbl to be low. Perhaps it is compared to $140/bbl. The much-anticipated $1,000/oz threshold for gold was topped only three days in March 2008. The price of the yellow metal has been bouncing up and down since then from $850 to $990, averaging $900 so far in August. Copper has fallen from its high of over $4.00/lb in June this year back to approximately $3.50, and the pundits predict further losses. The zinc price is continuing to slide from its late 2006 high of slightly over $2.00/lb to under $1.00. Nickel reached a high of $24.00/lb in the first half of 2007, but it, too, is giving up ground, finishing June 2008 in the $8.00 neighbourhood. Analysts are beginning to say that even potash prices have peaked. And so it goes.

All of us mining industry watchers know this is a cyclical sector. Five years of rising prices have spurred exploration efforts around the world and across Canada. Many would-be miners want to cash in on the boom. The question becomes how many of them can do that before prices soften to the point that projects are once again shelved?

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Canada Reduced to “Branch Office” Status – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

Has Canada been reduced to the level of a mere “branch office” in the global mining industry? That’s what Don Argus, chairman of BHP BILLITON, called this country at a recent business gathering in Brisbane, Australia. He was talking about two years of mergers when a large chunk of our base metals industry passed into English, Swiss and Brazilian hands. Argus is concerned lest the Australian mining industry meet the same fate.

For decades Canadians have been leaders in the highly technical business of finding and mining deposits in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. They still are. The fact that our industry attracted the attention of foreign suitors speaks to that. To be called a “branch office” is an insult.

But, truth be told, Canadians have lost control of a large part of a very important industrial sector. Part of the blame belongs to the federal government for allowing the takeovers to happen. Part of the blame belongs to investors who failed to see opportunities in the Canadian resource sector.

A measure of how far Canada has fallen can be seen in this fact: Canada has lost more mining head offices than any other country since 2003. Numbers compiled by PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS show that 12 of the world’s top 40 mining companies called Canada home four years ago. Since then, seven of the 12 have been taken over.

If the trend continues, what will be left for Canadians? Will all the profits from our natural resources (minerals, fuels, water) leave the country? Will research opportunities move offshore? Will Canadian jobs be the first to go when the mineral industry reaches its next cyclical downturn? Will Canada be poorer for losing its domestic mineral industry?

The answer to the last question is “yes”. I doubt there will be much argument there. The arguments will start when someone thinks he can reverse the trend.

More Thoughts on Protecting Ontario’s Boreal Forests – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

The decision by the Ontario government to protect its boreal forests north of the 51st parallel continues to be discussed by CMJ readers and environmentalists.

Predictably, leading North American academics support the plan. They praised protection of a “vital ecosystem”. They figuratively patted the Premier on the back for his “long-term vision, recognizing that storing carbon, protecting biodiversity, and traditional lifestyles and maintaining freshwater supplies are more important than immediate profits.” These people don’t depend on the mineral industry for their income, but I’m sure they all enjoy the myriad of consumer goods made possible by it.

Some CMJ readers were understandably upset at the provincial announcement. “Another North American jurisdiction that would rather have trees and swamps than jobs and wealth generated at a time when the manufacturing industry in Ontario is tanking,” wrote Vancouver’s Darin Wagner, president and CEO of West Timmins Mining . “This kind of announcement shows a complete and total lack of understanding of the minimal impact that exploration and mining have on the local environment. Yet another example of a politician jumping on the ‘global warming’ bandwagon to collect a few votes from the ‘urban greens’ at the expense of the resource communities which have been the backbone of his/her economy. Continue Reading →

Half of Northern Ontario Now Off-Limits to Mineral Industry – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

On July 14, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced plans to protect at least 225,000 km² of the boreal forest in Northern Ontario. “Protect” will mean permanently removing the declared area from mineral exploration, mining and forestry.

The Northern Boreal forest covers 43% of Ontario’s land mass, an area 1.5 times the size of the Maritime provinces. The forest is home to only 24,000 people in 36 communities. (No mention has been made as to whether or not these people had a say in the decision). The forest supports more than 200 species of animals, including polar bears, wolverines and caribou, some of which are threatened or endangered.

McGuinty is touting the plan as a means of reducing climate change. The government claims that the boreal region absorbs 12.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from the atmosphere. Therefore, the trees must be protected or global warming will accelerate. By waving the holy grail of global warming, the premier has ensured that every non-governmental environmental group will follow vociferously in his wake.

The decision is a blow to northern communities. Reports in the “Timmins Daily Press” indicate that citizens of that community were not consulted prior to the announcement. The local mayor and mining industry executives interviewed for the article expressed grave concerns that this is disastrous for the provincial economy.

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