Sudbury: A Historical Case Study of Multiple Urban-Economic Transformation – by Oiva Saarinen (2 of 4)

Oiva Saarinen is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Geography at Laurentian University. He has published many articles on Sudbury’s past and is author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area. This article was originally published in Ontario History/Volumn LXXXII, Number 1/March 1990.

A Regional Central-Place

After World War II Sudbury began to shed some of its colonial-frontier character and image, thanks initially to a significant expansion of the mining economy. This expansion, however, included neither the broadening of the mining economy to include new products nor the strengthening of forward or backward linkages; rather, the Sudbury area provided ample support for the contention that staple economies often lead to just more of the same. 26 

The extension of the staple economy into the post-war era could be attributed directly to the influence of the American “military-industrial complex,” for it was the American government, in response to the military needs of the Korean and Cold Wars, that deliberately set the stage for a mining boom in the Sudbury and Elliot Lake areas during the 1950s. This economic expansion in turn enabled the Sudbury Basin communities collectively to attain the critical population or a metropolis. A related event was the passing of the region’s remoteness and hinterland status in relation to other parts of Ontario and Canada.

The acquisition of these new population and geographical attributes supported the transition of the area towards a more mature, service-oriented economy, and by the late 1960s Sudbury had acquired some of the characteristics of a regional central-place. The community was also changing internally: land-use planning was introduced, and a white-collar class was emerging. Unfortunately, many aspects of the transition went unnoticed because of the inordinate attention given to the struggle between lnco and Local 598 during the 19505 and 1960s.

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Sudbury: A Historical Case Study of Multiple Urban-Economic Transformation – by Oiva Saarinen (1 of 4)

Oiva Saarinen is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Geography at Laurentian University. He has published many articles on Sudbury’s past and is author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area. This article was originally published in Ontario History/Volumn LXXXII, Number 1/March 1990.

Sudbury serves as a relevant historical case study of a settlement that has undergone several transformations since its inception as a fledgling village in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Though changes of this kind have been frequent in Ontario, they have not normally happened to hinterland resource communities. This article suggests that Sudbury is unique in this regard, having evolved through five distinct stages: (I) a railway company village, (2) a colonial-frontier mining town and city, (3) a regional central-place, (4) a declining metropolis, and (5) a nearly self-sustaining community.

The constant restructuring of Sudbury’s society and economic base has been caused by a variety of external and internal forces, among which the “human dynamic” has been vital and ever present. The paper suggests that under certain circumstances a resource community can progress from a staples and boom-bust existence to a more sustainable urban economy based on local and regional influences.

A Railway Company Village

Sudbury began its existence as a company village of the Canadian Pacific Railway. 1 In 1883 it became one of the places in Northern Ontario chosen as a temporary construction centre for the railway company. Situated on the outer limit of habitable territory, the site gave no evidence whatsoever that it would ever acquire an importance beyond that of a small wayside station for the transcontinental railway. In 1884 the Commissioner of Crown Lands made land grants to both the CPR and the Jesuits. For the first few years, the population of the townsite was composed almost entirely of railway employees. The CPR initially banned private enterprise and ran all the boarding houses and other retail businesses in the village. When the company subdivided its portion of the site in 1886, it used a gridiron plan that recognized the influence of the pocketed topography and the existing rights-of-way of the railway lines. The legacy of this original layout remains to the present day.

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Sudbury Soil Study – Did it Short-Circuit the Community Process? – by Bill Bradley

Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of permission to post Bill Bradley’s article.

There is an old saying around farmyards. Don’t be surprised if, when you go to get the horses, you find the barn door was left open and the horses have stampeded out the door. This seems to be the case with the Sudbury Soils Study, according to its critics.

Why is it that the original terms of reference did not include the influence of metal contamination on area mining workers, including contractors? It would seem obvious that these workers face a double whammy of workplace exposure and environmental exposure, especially if they live near the old smelter sites at Copper Cliff, Gatchell, Falconbridge and Coniston.

This would mean that Ontario government representation would have to include the Ontario Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care on the technical committee (TC), which is responsible for the whole process.

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De Beers Shares its Diamond Passion Through Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum Exhibit

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Ontario Mining Association member De Beers Canada is sharing its passion for diamonds through its sponsorship of an exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum.  “The Nature of Diamonds” exhibit is scheduled to be on display for all until March 22, 2009.  “For thousands of years, diamonds have held a special place in many cultures around the world,” said Jim Gowans, President and CEO of De Beers Canada.  “We are proud to be associated with the ROM to showcase the origins, history and allure of one of the rarest materials on earth.”

At a special event to mark the opening of the exhibit, recordings of Shirley Bassey singing the theme song from the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever,” the presence of Canadian triathlon Olympian and medal winner Simon Whitfield and the opening of the vault to show the world´s third largest cut diamond and other spectacular gems and jewelry enhanced the celebrations.

The first diamond mine in Canada is celebrating its 10th anniversary of production this month.  Mr. Gowans pointed out that in that short time, Canada has advanced to become the third largest diamond producer in the world.  “Canada is now a diamond superpower,” said William Thorsell, Chief Executive Officer of the ROM.  “We are enjoying our relationship with De Beers Canada and (he suggested) I think we need to invent a single line of diamonds for men.”

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Ontario’s Mining Sector Leads the Way in First Nation Development Partnerships

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

The mining industry in Ontario is leading the way with innovative ideas and agreements which promote sustainable development in Aboriginal communities.  A document produced by Natural Resources Canada titled “Agreements Between Mining Companies and Aboriginal Communities or Governments” shows that 105 agreements have been signed between mining enterprises and Aboriginals.  The document shows that 29 of those agreements are in this province.  Ontario Mining Association member companies have a strong track record for building bridges and working in collaborative partnerships with Aboriginal communities.  

These contracts documented by Natural Resources Canada have been identified and validated by the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Mineral Industry and do not represent an exhaustive list of existing agreements in Canada.  The types of agreements identified range from joint-ventures to impact-benefit agreements to exploration agreements and socio-economic agreements.  At the recent Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association conference in Saskatoon, its President Hans Matthews said there are now more than 120 of these agreements in Canada.

Several examples of mutual benefit and cooperation among OMA members and Aboriginal communities can be found.  The Musselwhite gold mine, in Northwestern Ontario, which opened in 1997, established a creative agreement with a number of First Nations that provides for education, training, employment and business related opportunities in local communities.  Xstrata Nickel and the Wanapitei First Nation reached a mutual benefit agreement concerning the development of the Nickel Rim project in the Sudbury area. 

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Looking Through Stone – Poems About the Earth – by Susan Ioannou

Poet Susan IoannouExcerpt from Susan Ioannou’s book of poetry Looking Through Stone – Poems About the Earth. If you would like to order Susan Ioannou’s book of poetry, go to Your Scrivener Press


The Earth is never still.
Even as it crumbles
it is building,
great plates pushing
sediments up from the oceans
or sliding them under the continents.

There massive heat and stress
flatten minerals into bands
or leaf them into layers
or squeeze their particles so tight
atomic patterns rearrange
and recrystallize
limestone roughness into marble, 
sandstone into quartzite,
shale to slate.

Deepest and hottest,
diamonds are hardened.
Higher, beryls and topaz cool.
Like sulphur,
without any air some form
as minerals and bacteria mingle
or, with oxygen, are reborn
like a brassy chalcopyrite
deepened to azurite blue.

Even the oldest,
like a foliated gneiss,
after remelting into magma,
hiss back up volcanic vents
and overflow as mountains
—repeating Earth’s cycle.

Sudbury Soils Study Continues to be Criticized – by Bill Bradley

Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of permission to post Bill Bradley’s article.

The Sudbury Soils Study is continuing to raise criticisms in the community. The date for public comment ended Saturday, Nov. 1. A number of community food activists and local farmers were told Thursday by Mississauga toxicologist Glenn Ferguson that local vegetables and fruit grown in backyards or from commercial operations are safe. Ferguson is a scientist who worked for the SARA Group managing the Human Health Risk Assessment work for the Sudbury Soils Study. He said the critics may have found high levels of metals in some soil samples in the SARA data but what really matters is what turns up in the food itself.

“It’s like apples and oranges. You cannot compare values in soil with values in the produce itself. People eat the produce, not the soil,” said Ferguson. “We still cannot contact the physician who wrote the critique for the citizens so at this point we do not know what values he is referring to.”

Ferguson has a Ph.D. in health sciences at the University of Waterloo specializing in the validation of toxicology risk assessment models and techniques. He has more than 14 years experience in the field of toxicology, human health and ecological risk assessment. He is considered a Qualified Person for Risk Assessment (QPRA) as defined by the Ontario Protection Act of Ontario legislation.

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Mining Women in the City (Toronto-style) – by Jane Werniuk

Several members of the Women in Mining Network at the WIM reception during the Toronto, Canada, PDAC convention in March 2008. From left to right: Rosario Astuvilca of the Bedford Group, Catharine Shaw of Golder Associates, Sue Hebert (assistant deputy minister of mines in Ontario), Jane Werniuk of Canadian Mining Journal, Pat Dillon of Teck Cominco, MaryAnn Mihychuk of Hudbay Minerals, and Kim MacDonald of the PDAC. Photo Credit: Stan Sudol


Small groups, organizations and networks of women related to the mining industry have existed for decades all over the world.  Until recently, there has been little or no interaction between any of them. That all changed in the summer of 2007 when a major fund-raising effort captured the imagination of mining industry people across the country and beyond.

The Women in Mining (WIM) – Toronto Branch decided to form a team for the two-day, 60-km Weekend to End Breast Cancer, an annual event benefiting the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, one of the top five comprehensive cancer research centres in the world. 

During lunch in June after one of the many training walks, one of the team suggested that a goal of $200,000 and taking first place in the overall fund-raising was “not only reasonable but easily achievable” given the links that each of the members had and the size of the industry.  This was quite a feat considering the event had over 5,300 walkers, 1,000 volunteers and raised $17.3 million that year.

The goal was achieved through extensive communication and networking.  Links were established with branches across Canada, the US and around the world.  Everyone was committed to the cause as it represented a very loud voice for women in mining and also showed just how much the mining industry cared.  Over 399 donations came in, including money from 66 companies involved in mining, engineering, law or finance—a virtual Who’s Who of large and small mining firms.  The WIM team was recognized for its efforts by Canadian Mining Hall of Fame chair Don Worth during his organization’s annual dinner in Toronto in January 2008. 

Downsview Park, Toronto, at the start of the second day of the Weekend to End Breast Cancer walk. From left to right: Cathy Fletcher, Amanda Fletcher, Fabiola Astuvilca, Rosario Astuvilca, Jane Werniuk, Catharine Shaw, Kate Armstrong, Ingrid Hann. Photo Credit: Team mate Monica OspinaThe walk was a major catalyst for other opportunities: increasing membership across all Branches; seeking out, discovering and communicating with other WIM groups around the world; launching WIM networks in other locations, across Canada and in such places as Moscow, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru. 

The Inaugural International WIM Reception at the PDAC convention in March 2008 drew a crowd of 450.  Golder Associates shared half its double booth at the PDAC trade show with WIM, giving the group a highly coveted base for publicizing its reception.

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China as an Economic Superpower – Implications for the Canadian Mining Industry – by Paul Stothart

Paul Stothart - Vice President, Economic Affairs - Mining Association of CanadaPaul Stothart is vice president, economic affairs of the Mining Association of Canada. He is responsible for advancing the industry’s interests regarding federal tax, trade, investment, transport and energy issues. This article was originally published in May, 2007.

There is no shortage of printer’s ink being spilled in recent years writing about the emergence of the Chinese economy. This is, without question, one of the top global news stories of the past decade. After 15 years of double-digit annual growth, the size of the Chinese economy has now reached a state where continued double-digit growth has very meaningful implications for many industries and countries.

Where 10 per cent growth in 1990 may not have had much impact on a global scale, similar growth in
2007 on a much larger economic base has reverberations throughout the global economy.

The emergence of China as a world economic power, and its continued growth, will have direct implications for the Canadian mining industry in three important areas.

Impact 1 – Driver of World Mineral Prices

First, China remains the prime driver of world mineral prices. China is building a domestic infrastructure for 1.3 billion people and is concurrently expanding its role as the world’s manufacturing centre for many product areas. The country simply cannot meet its own needs for copper, zinc, nickel, and other core ingredients of a transportation, power, and communications infrastructure.

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Mister Stewart Goes to Washington – by Walter Stewart – Macleans (September 1975)

We wheeled the car out of Cooper Street and south along the Driveway, beside the Rideau Canal, past the carefully tended flower gardens of the National Capital Commission, past the even-more-carefully tended bureaucrats, marching memo-laden back to work after the lunch break, past couples disporting themselves on the greenward, and young mothers rolling their kids out for sunshine and compliments, past, in a word, the mixed panorama of central Ottawa on a summer’s day. My wife said: “Let’s not go.” A foolish fancy, but alluring. We were leaving Ottawa after 12 years, and heading for Washington. We had lived here for eight years, and spent a week out of every month here for four years, and not it was over, and I said: “Ah, hell.”

I was surprised at myself. Canada’s capital has always been a national joke. Transport Minister Jean Marchand’s line that “The nicest thing about Ottawa is the train to Montreal” has become an unofficial city motto, and bitching about the place – its lack of class, good restaurants, sense of history and all the neat things you find in Washington and London and Paris – has become a pastime not only for its citizens but for Canadians everywhere.

Well, nuts to them. Ottawa is not only a superior city, it may even be a model from which other cities can learn. It makes the best of a modest setting – as opposed to, say, Vancouver, which makes the worst of a magnificent setting, or Sudbury, which squats in its glum background like a whore in a hovel – and it has all the amenities most people require.

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Sudbury Dumped on the Slag Heap of History – Stan Sudol

Stan Sudol - Executive Speech Writer and Communications ConsultantThis article was originally published in the Sudbury Star –  Friday, February 6 , 2004

Sudbury should work extra hard to control its image

Ed Burtynsky is a very successful art photographer who, unfortunately for Sudbury, has become somewhat of a celebrity within the tiny Toronto media establishment. Why should the city be concerned? Mr. Burtynsky’s principal subject matter happens to be industrial environments and many of his photos were taken in the Sudbury region. In fact one particularly photo titled, Nickel Tailings #34, Sudbury, Ontario is not only on the cover of his new book, but is also being highlighted by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in their media promotions of his show.

 If you read last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, you would have seen a “full-page” advertisement for Mr. Burtynsky’s AGO show using a striking photo of a river of slag with denuded trees in the distance. The Globe and Mail is Canada’s most influential newspaper, read by the country’s corporate and political elite – the type of people who make decisions on where factories should be built and where significant government investments should be made.  

In the February issue of Toronto Life, journalist Gerald Hannon writes a lengthy profile on Ed Burtynsky’s work and eloquently describes that slag-dump photo as, “One image in particular has become almost iconic. Nickel Tailings #34, Sudbury, Ontario gives us a black and blistered landscape, a fragile line of trees huddling disconsolately in the background, the foreground dominated by a stream so crimson it is as if the earth has bled.”

Ed Burtynsky - Nickel Tailings # 34 Sudbury, Ontario

In a recent review in the Toronto Star, the country’s largest circulation paper, art critic Peter Goddard describes another Burtynksy photo titled #13, Inco Abandoned Mine Shaft, Crean Hill Mine, Sudbury, Ontario as “… that left a pool of lime-green water so toxic and yet so clear – and lovely to look at – that the vertical striations in the rock are reflected in the surface of the deadly pool.”

Taking a Beating

Sudbury’s public relations image is certainly taking a beating. In fact, many in my business might suggest that the past twenty-five years of trying to change the city’s image from a polluted, industrially ravaged moonscape into a transformed, regreened landscape has been dealt a mortal blow!

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Canadian Gold Hunters Undeterred by Sliding Price – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

It seems like only yesterday pundits looked at the price of gold as it topped US$1,000 an ounce and predicted it could only go up. Actually it was seven months ago, near the middle of March 2008, and we all wish the price would return to that level. Instead, the mess in the global financial markets has for some reason made the U.S. dollar stronger and the price of gold dip to the $750/oz range.

Nonetheless, many Canadian juniors are pressing ahead with work at what they hope will someday be this country’s next generation of profitable gold mines. Here is a sampling that have landed in my inbox during the last two weeks.

ALTO VENTURES of Vancouver sais drilling has begun on targets at its Mud Lake and Three Towers properties in the Beardmore-Geraldton Gold Belt in Ontario. High grades have been unearthed in the region in the past. ( WESCAN GOLDFIELDS of Saskatoon is earning a 50% interest in the Mud Lake project.

BRIGADIER GOLD of Toronto has extended the gold zone to more than 200 metres vertical depth at its Larder Lake project near Kirkland Lake, Ontario. The intersections were made beneath trenches in which visible gold was discovered in 2005. (

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Boomtown Brat – Personal Reflections on Sudbury’s Made in China Economic Recovery – by Mick Lowe

 This article orginally appeared in the Christmas 2004 edition of Highgrader Magazine – a Northern Ontario publication that brings the issues, concerns and culture of Ontario’s vast forestry and mineral rich north to the world.

In the latter half of 2003, in the wake of yet another failed marriage, I was forced to indulge in one of the most dreaded of all male pastimes, an activity ranking somewhere between visiting the dentist and plumbing: I had to go shopping.  In the act of replacing the myriad of consumer goods that are forfeited when a household is split asunder, I made several discoveries.  Ever the nosy parker, (and hoping to support Canadian industry) I made a point of determining the country of origin of almost every purchase: from patio furniture to kitchen utensils, from an inexpensive stereo to a weed-whacker. 

The results were astonishing: virtually everything had come from, or at least been assembled in, the People’s Republic of China.  Also amazing was how cheap most things were, and that the quality nevertheless appeared relatively high.  The world was awash in cheap electronics.  It appeared that, at a conservative estimate, 90 per cent of the merchandise in the local Dollarama store was from China.  Multiplying the inventory in all the dollar stores in Sudbury times all the dollar stores in Canada conjured up a mental image of a chain of container ships crossing the Pacific from west to east, disgorging an unending stream of consumer goods produced by a nearly infinite supply of cheap labour in a nation of 1.3 billion souls.

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Mick Lowe – Journalist and Former Northern Life Columnist

Mick Lowe - Sudbury Journalist and Former Northern Life ColumnistMick Lowe was born in 1947 in Omaha, Nebraska.  He is a 1965 graduate of Lincoln Southeast High School.He emigrated to Canada in 1970, after attending the University of Nebraska- Lincoln for four years,majoring in history, English literature, and philosophy.  He also attended the University of Calgary from 1973 to 1974, before moving to Sudbury in 1974 where he became News Editor of Northern Life, Sudbury’s community news weekly.       

From 1975 to 1988 he worked as a freelance journalist, becoming a frequent contributor to the Globe and   Mail. In1977 he became a staff reporter for CBC Radio News. when he helped to open the network’s Northeastern OntarioNews Bureau

In 1978 Mick was the Founding Producer of the CBC’s first radio morning show from Sudbury, Morning North. Shortly afterward he moved to Lisbon, Portugal where he resumed his freelance career for the Globe and Mail from Madrid and Lisbon. 

After publishing his first book, Conspiracy of Brothers: A True Story of Bikers, Murder and the Law Lowe became a Professor in the Print Journalism program at Cambrian College in Sudbury.  Mick published his second book One Woman Army: The Life and Times of Claire Culhane in 1992.

Three years later he became a regujar columnist for Northern Life, a time during which he published his third book, Premature Bonanza: Stand- off at Voisey’s Bay, and he would continue making weekly contributions until 2002, when he became a communications consultant for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. His column, On the Rock, won awards for “Best Column” in Ontario and North America. A father of two, he resides on the banks of the Vermilion River north of Sudbury.

Over the next few months, Republic of will be posting many of Mick Lowe’s previous columns due to their historical relevancy to Sudbury’s mining history.

Financial Woes Trim Mining Sector’s Capital Budgets – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

The global financial crisis looks to be the new reality for most mineral producers. Slumping stock markets, wobbly banks and lack of consumer demand are having an effect on Canadian miners, forcing them to trim their capital spending plans.

Here are a two examples.

Don Lindsay, CEO of Vancouver-based TECK, said the number one priority for his company is debt reduction during these times of weaker metal prices. Cash flow generated from operations will be used for that purpose at the expense of capital, sustaining and exploration budgets. “We haven’t come to a determination on how much that will be cut back but they will be cut back,” he promised. Consideration will also be given to selling certain unnamed assets. Teck recently arranged for a $9.8 billion bridge loan to finance its acquisition of FORDING CANADIAN COAL TRUST, and the company has a 20% share in the FORT HILLS OIL SANDS project where development costs have ballooned by 50% over the original estimate of $14.1 billion made in July 2007.

Calgary’s SUNCOR ENERGY has trimmed its 2009 capital budget 20% to $6 billion from the $7.5 billion spent in 2008. Of the 2009 budget, $3.6 billion will be spent on the Voyageur oil sands growth project. This commitment includes meeting spending and construction timelines for the third and fourth stages of the Firebag in situ operation. The completion date of the planned Voyageur upgrader has been pushed back one year to save money. The remaining $2.4 billion will be spent in the oil sands business ($1.7 billion), natural gas operations ($300 million) and refining ($400 million).

When large, well-managed corporations cut capital spending, smaller miners might do well to heed the call. I predict delays in many projects that cannot be economically completed without another round of higher commodity prices.

Mining industry observers have long been aware that this is a cyclical business. What surprises me is how long the upward cycle lasted (five years) and how fast the situation has been reversed (five weeks).