Revisting the Idea of Northern Ontario Separation – by Stan Sudol

This column was originally published in Northern Life on Jun. 21, 2007

The McGuinty Liberal’s policies of the past four years are severely hampering Northern Ontario’s two main industries – forestry and mining.

In the spring, Premier Dalton McGuinty ignored a delegation of five northern mayors, whom collectively represented two-thirds of the region’s population, and were presenting a policy document – Northern Lights: Strategic Investments in Ontario’s Greatest Asset – that detailed constructive solutions for the region’s many problems.

After 130 years of being a resource colony for the south, has the time finally come to create our own province?

Yes, I see the eyes rolling and the heads shaking, but northern separation does have merit.

And if it was possible to carve out Nunavut from the former Northwest Territories with a tiny population of about 30,000 – roughly twice that of Kenora – then a separate province in the north is economically feasible.

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Northern Ontario Separation Episode on TV Ontario – Stan Sudol

Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited onto TVO’s flagship current affairs program, The Agenda, hosted by Steve Paikin. The topic for the first half-hour segment was about northern Ontario forming a separate province.

As the station’s website states, “TVO is Ontario’s public educational media organization and a trusted source of interactive educational content that informs, inspires, and stimulates curiosity and thought. TVO’s vision is to empower people to be engaged citizens of Ontario through educational media.” The Agenda has been described as a program that “presents in-depth analysis and intelligent debate on issues of concern in the rapidly changing world around us.”

The participants on the five-member panel were:

From Thunder Bay:

  • Rebecca Johnson, City Councilor
  • Livio Di Matteo, Lakehead University Economics Professor

From Sudbury:

  • Rejean Grenier, Editor of Le Voyageur

Toronto TVO Studio:

  • John Beaucage, Union of Ontario Indians Grand Chief
  • Stan Sudol, Communications Consultant, Northern Life Columnist

To view the entire program click below:

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Teck – The Last Diversified Canadian Mining Giant

BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus stated last summer that Canada’s commanding role in global mining had been reduced to “branch office” status. This criticism reflects the fact that Canada`s major mining companies like Falconbridge, Inco and Alcan have fallen under foreign control.

Vancouver-based Teck, however, withstood this wave of industry consolidation and stands today as the last, diversified Canadian mining giant.

So I am both wary of and troubled by the intense negative media speculation over the immediate future of Teck. Due to the emotional “herd” mentality of current stock market investors, if you repeat something often enough it seems to become a fact even though it’s not.

Much of this negative coverage focuses on the company’s ability to handle the US$9.8 billion debt it incurred to fund its acquisition of the assets of Fording Canadian Coal Trust. There is concern over the $5.8 billion in bridge financing that is due at the end of October, 2009. The remaining US$4 billion is term debt and repayable over three years.

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The Thunder From Down Under – A History of Nickel Laterites – by Stan Sudol

The Canadian Mining Journal is Canada’s first mining publication.

This article was originally published – August/2005

Everything you wanted to know about laterites but were afraid to ask

The last few years of the 20th Century were not very kind to the nickel industry. In October and December of 1998 the LME price for nickel dipped to US$1.76 a pound, the lowest level ever, if you factor in inflation. The imploding Russian economy was dumping nickel on western markets, the Asian currency crisis was annihilating economic growth and metal demand, and new lower-cost mine production was threatening to come on stream.

Of great concern to Canadian nickel giants Inco Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd., the second and third largest producers after Russian MMC Norilsk, was an upstart Australian company called Anaconda Nickel Ltd.

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, Anaconda’s chairman, was well known in Australian mining circles for his legendary salesmanship and determination. One could almost imagine him pounding the table like Nikita Khrushchev and boasting that “he would bury the West with low-cost laterite nickel.”

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McGuinty Should Establish Laurentian as the Harvard of the Mining Sector – by Stan Sudol

Premier McGuinty should consolidate the province’s scattered post-secondary mineral education programs at Laurentian University and establish a world-class centre of excellence – a Harvard of the Mining Sector.

In one visionary initiative, the Premier could give Sudbury an economic boost, help resolve mining skilled labour shortages, spend university funding more efficiently and be in sync with the recently published provincial report “Ontario in the Creative Age” by Richard Florida and Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management.

Notwithstanding the current commodity slump, there is a demographic time bomb ticking in the mineral sector as the baby boomers get ready to retire. It is believed that 60% of geo scientists – the people who find new mineral deposits – in Canada will be 65 or older by 2015.

In early 2008, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MIHR) projected that mining industry yearly labour requirements face three scenarios: high-growth (9,200), no-growth (6,200), and industry contraction (4,600), until 2016.  These were only based on retirements.

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PDAC 2009 Convention – the Mining Bust of a Generation? – by Stan Sudol

(L to R) Ontario Deputy Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Kevin Costante; Timmins Mayor, Tom Laughren; Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Honourable Michael Gravelle; Ontario Mining Association President, Chris Hodgson; Ontario Prospector Association Executive Director, Garry Clark

What a difference a year makes at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual convention, the largest on the planet. The PDAC is where the world’s mining analysts, investors, prospectors, exploration managers, government representatives and anyone else connected to this industry come to meet, do business, attend lectures and of course party. There is also a large Investor’s Exchange that the general public can attend to find out about the newest exploration plays or interrogate company presidents about their stock performance.

Needless to say, the mood was somewhat somber as everyone is trying to cope with commodity prices and metal demand that over the past six months have fallen off the proverbial cliff. The rapidness of the crash, along side with the unprecedented turmoil in credit and capital markets that has dried up funding for most exploration and development work has sent a legitimate fear throughout the entire junior mining sector.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that the market capitalization of the top 100 TSX-V junior mining companies plummeted from $20.2 billion on June 30, 2007 to $4.1 billion by November 2008. Investors are shunning higher risk exploration companies like the plague.

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Northern Ontario Separation – by Stan Sudol

This article was originally published in the Sudbury Star on March 9 , 2002

Maybe it’s time for Northern Ontario to think about going it alone

In my 45 years of living in Ontario, I have never seen such a tremendous rift between its southern and northern halves. The corporate, media and political elites of Toronto have grown so out of touch with the economic hardships and challenges of the North that for the second time in my life I have come to the conclusion that it would be in the best interests of Northern Ontario to secede from the south and form its own province.

When I was a teenager in the mid 1970s, I was sympathetic to the Northern Ontario Heritage Party. Ed Deibel, a North Bay businessman, unsuccessfully tried to separate from the south in order to establish social, economic and cultural justice for the distinct people of Northern Ontario.

Perhaps the time is right to revisit Ed Deibel’s worthy dream. A separate Northern Ontario would encompass approximately 85 per cent of the province’s land mass, using the French and Mattawa Rivers as the traditional boundary between north and south. With a population of roughly 838,812, according to the 2001 census, Canada’s eleventh province would be larger than New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland, and would be eligible for more money in federal equalization payments as a “have not province” than it currently receives from Queen’s Park.

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Goodby Inco, ‘Bem-Vindos’ to Sudbury Brazillian CVRD – by Stan Sudol

This column was originally published in Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper on October 25, 2006

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, if I may borrow from Charles Dickens.

On Aug. 24, 2006 , the spot nickel price hit its all time high ever, at $15.76 (US) per pound. Last Friday it was just a tad under that record at $15.65.

Inco’s third quarter net earnings of $701 million—the Ontario operations contributed $US356 million to that figure—were the highest ever quarterly profits in the company’s 104-year history. The 2005 third quarter net earnings were $64-million.

And to add the cherry on the cake, the company officially opened its $115-million Fluid Bed Roaster Dioxide Emission Reduction plant in Copper Cliff that will further reduce SO2 pollution from the Sudbury operations by 34 percent to just 175 kilotonnes a year. This is about a 90 percent reduction from the 2,000 kilotonnes a year the company used to emit in 1970.

However, the drama and trauma of the past year’s “nickel wars” have finally come to an end in a way we didn’t expect.

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The Brazilians are Coming, the Brazilians are Coming – by Stan Sudol

This column was originally published in Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper on August 16, 2006

Combined assets of CVRD and Inco would create the third-largest mining company in the world

Like most other analysts and columnists who have been following this nickel soap opera, we were all collectively given a sucker punch out of nowhere by the Brazilians!

Last Friday, Brazilian iron ore king, Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) made an all-cash offer to buy Inco Limited at the price of CDN$ 86.00 per share. The offers of both Teck-Cominco and Phelps Dodge are a mix of cash and share. The hedge fund boys and girls dance with delight with all cash offers as these always trump any cash/share combination and give maximum short term gain.

In addition, Atticus Capital, a large American hedge fund that owns about eight percent of Phelps Dodge does not support the merger with Inco and will recommend shareholders to vote against this deal. If there are no regulatory hurdles, this does appear – notice my hedging – to be a knock-out punch.

Roger Agnelli, chief operating officer of CVRD said in a statement, “This is an exciting opportunity for CVRD. The operations of the two companies are complementary and the combination will enhance our capabilities to benefit from the fast changing global landscape in the metals and mining industry.”

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Nickel Closest Thing to a True ‘War Metal’ – by Stan Sudol

This column was originally published in Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper on February 23, 2007

The metallic “Achilles heel” for any military and navel production has always been nickel

Sudbury was definitely going to be “nuked” by the Russians. At least that was our conclusion back in 1976 when I worked at CVRD Inco’s Clarabell Mill for a year.

During one graveyard shift, a group of us were talking about Cold War politics and atomic bombs. We all agreed that if there ever was a nuclear war between the Americans and Russians then there must have been one Soviet “nuke” with our community’s name stenciled on it. We all laughed a little nervously, but there was also some pride in knowing Sudbury was important enough to get blown-up in the first round of missiles.

Access to strategic materials has always affected the destinies of nations. The Romans conquered Britain in AD 43 to control valuable tin deposits in Cornwall. Combining tin with copper produces bronze, a more valuable and militarily important alloy. Ancient Chinese metallurgical expertise with iron and steel allowed the Middle Kingdom to become a dominate military and economic force during the prosperous Han dynasty.

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Xstrata Layoffs in Sudbury: Short-term Financial Gain and Long-term Hiring Pain – by Stan Sudol

Global commodity prices have fallen off the cliff. ThyssenKrupp AG, Germany’s largest steelmaker, recently stated that not since the end of the Second World War has the demand for steel fallen so rapidly. Steel is the fundamental building block of all infrastructure and manufacturing activities.

These are extraordinary economic times, so we all knew this was coming.

Yet no one was prepared to see Xstrata Nickel chop its Sudbury workforce in half – 686 layoffs and 210 early retirements. Like most in the community, I am shocked and very, very angry. This kneejerk reaction from Zug, Switzerland has two serious repercussions that will affect the Canadian mining sector for a long time. The first is this: should Canada have allowed foreign companies to take over such a strategic resource as the Sudbury Basin with such weak controls on jobs and investment and, second, how will these severe employment cutbacks impact impending labour shortages in the mining sector?

To be fair, regardless of who owns the two nickel miners, the fundamental issue is that you cannot continue operating if it costs $6 to mine a pound of nickel and you can only sell it for $5.

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2009 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame – A Rough Year But There is Hope – by Stan Sudol

David Harquail, President & CEO, Franco-Nevada and Ed Thompson, Mining Consultant

There was a somewhat subdued feeling by many in the mining sector at the 21st annual Canadian Mining Hall of Fame dinner, last Thursday, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

As Master of Ceremonies, David Harquail, President and CEO of Franco-Nevada said, “…base metals are in the tank, good projects can’t get financing and Hy’s steakhouse is now serving crying towels with those martinis!”

However, the four inductees for 2009 – two entrepreneurial engineers, Grenville Thomas, Bernard Michel, a geologist, Roman Shklanka, and a mineralogist professor, Donald Gorman, – seemed to symbolize the industry’s amazing ability to create enormous wealth and employment as well as the importance of training the next generation of skilled technicians that have made this country a mining superpower.

Mr. Harquail added, “…if there’s one thing a miner knows, it’s a commodity cycle. And when times are bad, opportunity knocks. Many of those at our head table tonight got here by not only surviving many downturns but by capitalizing on them.”

That head table included individuals such as Ian Pearce, CEO Xstrata Nickel, Jim Gowans, President and CEO De Beers Canada, Terry Bowles, President and CEO Iron Ore Company of Canada, and Jack McOuat, Director of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, just to name a few.Terry Bowles, President & CEO, Iron Ore Company of Canada, Marilyn Scales, Field Editor, Canadian Mining Journal, Ian Pearce, CEO Xstrata Nickel

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CANADIAN PERSPECTIVE: Republic Of Mining Chronicles Canadian Mining History -by Stan Sudol*

This column was posted today on the Canadian Mining Journal digital update.

The Web has forever changed the way we search for information. In today’s digitized world, most journalists, policy analysts, political leaders and the general public – especially students – turn to the Internet as their first source for facts.

Two major drawbacks to Internet searches seem to be the lack of content that is over a decade old because no one has bothered to post it or information that is deeply embedded in corporate websites. Blog postings, on the other hand, generally show up on Google searches much more readily.

In the final week of December, the annual Mining Person of the Year Award given by The Northern Miner is eagerly awaited by the industry. Since the first award was given in 1977, I was very surprised that I could not find much information about previous winners when I searched the Internet.

After contacting The Northern Miner about my concerns, publisher Doug Donnelly graciously allowed the to post all the previous Mining Person of the Year winners.

I have created a separate file in my blog’s index site located on the left hand side of the screen called “Northern Miner – Mining Person of the Year Award,” for easy access. Or just Google “Mining Person/Man of the Year” and the address will pop up at the top of the page.

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Sudbury – The Republic of Nickel (Part 4 of 4) – Stan Sudol

The summer of 1969 was the beginning of the end of Sudbury’s commanding control of global nickel production. The labour disruptions that summer and fall would impact the industry for the next few decades. The Inco miners went on strike on July 10, 1969 with the Falconbridge workers joining them in the third week of August. They did not settle with until mid-November. The industrial economies of Britain and the U.S., both of which imported almost all of their nickel from Canada suffered greatly.

The London Times headlines screamed “The Nickel Crisis” and “Whitehall and CBI May Soon Declare Nickel Emergency.”  It was the most severe materials shortages both countries had experienced since World War Two. In the U.S. nickel stockpiles had to guarded by armed police to prevent theft. U.S. military production remained unaffected due to the government strategic stockpile.

It was the last time the “Sudbury nickel lion” roared. By bringing U.S. and British industry to their knees the Sudbury workers ensured that billions would be spent over the next few years to finally break their monopoly on this strategic metal.

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Sudbury – The Republic of Nickel (Part 3 of 4) – Stan Sudol

The decade ended with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the community in June 1939. It was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited Canada, let alone Sudbury. Precedence was broken by allowing the Queen, the first women ever to go underground at the Frood Mine. Traditionally miners thought women would bring bad luck if they were allowed underground. There were a few miners who probably thought the beginning of the Second World War was a result of her visit.

Second World War

Shortly after the second world war started, nickel was one of the first metals to require government allocation. Non-essential use of this strategic material was banned which included most of International Nickel’s civilian markets.

Labour shortages were a constant struggle requiring the company to hire women in its surface operations for the first time in history. Over 1,400 women were hired in production and maintenance jobs for the duration of the war at the Sudbury operations and the Port Colborne refinery.

The labour shortages also finally allowed a permanent union to be established. Inco’s nickel operations were well known to have an extensive system of anti-union spies who ensured any person discussing organization activities would be quickly fired.

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