Is Sudbury Sustainable Episode on TV Ontario’s The Agenda – Stan Sudol

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being invited onto TVO’s flagship current affairs program, The Agenda, hosted by Steve Paikin. The topic headline was: Is Sudbury Sustainable? Labour strife, shaken confidence and an economic downturn. What does Northern Ontario’s largest city have to do to survive in a global market? The program is archived …

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Mining Still Glitters in Northern Ontario – Stan Sudol

This article was originally published in the Sudbury Star on October 8, 2004

In July, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein proudly announced that his province’s massive debt has been slain. However, he could not have accomplished that historic feat without the development of northern Alberta’s booming oilsands economy and ensuing resource royalties. Sadly, Ontario, struggling with a $142-billion debt and a $100-billion infrastructure deficit, is largely ignoring the mineral rich potential of its north.

According to the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, over the next 50 years the world will use five times all the mineral supplies that have ever been mined up to the year 2000.

China, India, Brazil and other emerging countries are rapidly industrializing their economies, which require a wide variety of base metals, many of which could be found in one of the world’s richest geological regions — northern Ontario. We are entering a commodity boom that could last for decades.

Historically, northern Ontario’s mineral wealth has provided high paying jobs, supplied significant tax revenues to Queen’s Park and helped settle much of the region. The mining sector still generates enormous wealth and industrial activity.

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Sudbury’s Future is Still Underground – Stan Sudol

This article was originally published in the Sudbury Star on March 5, 2004

The total contribution to the Canadian economy from metals and industrial minerals is approximately $18 to $20 billion annually. Most of this activity takes place in northern and rural areas of the country. Mining is one of the most technology dependant sectors of the Canadian economy relying on innovation and automation to keep costs down, improve productivity and over the past twenty five years significantly reduce pollution.

Sudbury is a world leader in a wide variety of mining research activities including mine automation and telerobotics. Laurentian University has a federally funded Canada Research Chair in Robotics and Mine Automation headed by Dr. Greg Baiden. He has been described as the “Bill Gates of the mining sector” for his development of this leading-edge technology that is revolutionizing the way minerals are extracted from the ground.

Surprisingly, Canada does not have a major National Research Council (NRC) funded facility dedicated to the mining sector. For an industry that has encouraged the exploration and settlement of vast areas of the North, created enormous amounts of wealth, and established the country as a world leader in a wide variety of mining endeavors, this is incredibly short-sighted.

Australia, a major mineral producer with a population of only 19 million, has two world- class research institutes dedicated to mining innovation.

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What Sparkles in Sudbury is the Cluster of Mining Related Expertise and Innovation – Stan Sudol

This article was originally published in the Sudbury Star on November 21, 2003 (This is an expanded version of the original article.)

Sudbury’s Mining Cluster Is By Far Its Biggest Asset

Sudbury is one of the most fortunate cities of the 21st century.  In this new age of digitized, globalized commerce, this is one of the few communities in the world that has an internationally recognized cluster of mining expertise and knowledge. That was the reason why the South African trade mission recently visited the city.

There probably isn’t a mining engineer or geologist in North America or the world that has not made a pilgrimage to this “Mecca of mining” at least once in their lives.

For over 100 years, Sudburians have been honing their skills on the richest mining camp in the history of mankind. The total value of historic mineral production and present reserves from the Sudbury Basin exceeds U.S. $320 billion.

However, it is the 275 local mining supply and services companies, not Inco or Falconbridge that constitute the economic cluster that has been highlighted in the local media over the past two years. The knowledge of how to mine, not the mines themselves is the basis of a prosperous future for Sudbury.

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It’s Time To Focus On Sudbury’s Globally Significant Mining Sector – Stan Sudol

This column was originally published in the Sudbury Star on October 31, 2003

And turn Laurentian University into the Harvard of the mining sector

Every successful high-technology cluster around the world is anchored by a large engineering school with well funded research programs.  This connection supports the cluster businesses to create and apply new technologies and to successfully compete internationally.

In most technology clusters, many of the start-up firms are spun-off of university research activities. The best example of this is California’s Silicon Valley, the premier high-technology centre in the world and it connection with Stanford University’s renowned engineering faculty.

President Hoover, who graduated as a mining engineer from Stanford, eloquently wrote in 1909, “To the engineer falls the work of creating from the dry bones of the scientific fact the living body of industry. It is he whose intellect and direction bring to the world the comforts and necessities of daily need. … Engineering is the profession of creation and of construction, of simulation of human effort and accomplishment.”

The technology related sectors of science, math and engineering are the wealth creators of any society or country. It is the engineering schools of the world that produce innovative business people like Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple Computer.  With this wealth creation societies are able to afford health care, education, social programs and high quality infrastructure.

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Sudbury Must Become Mining Technology Leader – Stan Sudol

This article was originally published in the Sudbury Star on August 8 , 2003

Sudbury is the greatest mining centre in the world:it’s time we were treated like it

The Sudbury Nickel Basin is the greatest mining camp the world has ever seen. It has been in continuous operation for over 100 years and after the Alberta Tar Sands, is the second most important natural resource in this country. The total value of historic mineral production and present reserves from the Basin exceeds $320 billion U.S.

Nickel, a greyish-white metal, is an essential component of stainless steel, the industrialized world’s wonder alloy. Stainless steel’s resistance to oxidation, corrosion and insolubility in water, is used for hospital equipment, electronics, aerospace super-alloys, military weapons, batteries, and even the coins in your pocket and the kitchen sink. The modern digitized, globalized economy of the 21st century would quite literally grind to a halt without nickel.

Notwithstanding the current labour disruptions at Inco Limited, Sudbury is not dying and the 14 active nickel mines that account for approximately 12 per cent of the world’s supply of nickel are not running out of ore. In fact, in the past few years, five significant new deposits have been discovered.  In the geological world, these discoveries are absolutely astonishing for a mining camp as old and well explored as Sudbury.

Many geologists believe the prolific Sudbury Igneous Complex will still be producing nickel, copper, cobalt, gold, silver and platinum group metals one hundred years from now and will still be contributing generous tax revenues for both provincial and federal treasuries all the while.

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Sudbury’s High-tech Mining Mania – by Stan Sudol

This column was originally published in the Sudbury Star on November 10, 2002

Government’s Overlook Sudbury’s High-Tech Mining Cluster

Well known for its rich nickel-copper deposits, Sudbury, Ontario sustains the world’s largest mining/industrial complex. For the past century, these rich ore bodies have contributed enormous wealth, measured in the trillions of dollars, to the Canadian economy and have positioned the community as a leader in mining technology development and mining supply and services.

However, Canada’s heavily urbanized population tends to view mining as a low tech industry contributing little to the knowledge based economy of the 21st century.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, the combination of Sudbury’s undeserved, negative image, and distance from the country’s media and political centres are causing senior governments to overlook a high-technology cluster of mining supply businesses and research institutes.

This growing cluster of mining expertise could establish Canada as a world leader and create a booming northeastern Ontario economy if senior levels of government make the necessary strategic investments. 

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Grit’s David Peterson Was Northern Ontario’s Best Friend – Stan Sudol

This column was originally published in the Sudbury Star on February 20, 2004

Liberal Premier David Peterson had the vision and the will to support Northern Ontario

History will probably show that The Honourable David R. Peterson PC, QC was the best advocate Northern Ontario ever had. Ontario’s 20th premier, who was also Minister Responsible for Northern Development and Mines, was a true visionary, in the same mold as John A. McDonald, this country’s first prime minister.

Premier Peterson’s greatest legacy was the decentralization of parts of the Ontario civil service to various regions of the province. This forward thinking Liberal policy was initiated to spread the wealth and stability that government jobs provide. At that time, a disproportionate number of civil servants were located in the booming Toronto region which was choking on its excessive growth.

By relocating government offices and jobs throughout the province, the Peterson Liberals helped diversity the economic base of many communities that were affected by rapidly changing economic conditions.

In those innovative years, the Ministry of Natural Resources was relocated in Peterborough, the OPP headquarters went to Orillia, the Ministry of Agriculture moved to Guelph, parts of the massive Ministry of Health was shifted to Kingston and a section of the Ministry of Transport headed for St. Catherines. Unfortunately the Conservatives stopped the relocation of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture to Niagara Falls.

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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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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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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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