Can you provide an overview of the presence of the mining industry in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Mining in Newfoundland and Labrador has been one of the region’s main growth drivers for many decades. Like any industry, it has its ebbs and flows, but currently we are at a high point in terms of interest, exploration and capital. I have been very lucky that my predecessor, Siobhan Coady is now the Minister of Finance and when I look to her for funds to invest in mining she is very forthcoming. Even while we work through a tough fiscal situation in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are still finding ways to invest in the development of our mining sector.
The province currently has 12 producing mines, with six metal and nine non-metal commodities present. The metals are iron ore, nickel, copper, cobalt, gold and silver, and the non-metals are barite, fluorspar, dolomite, limestone, gypsum, peat, pyrophyllite, stone, as well as sand and gravel. Iron ore has been the backbone of the mining industry and has always been solid, even during the pandemic. There has also always been a gold play in the province, and we are a leading jurisdiction in Canada with an ongoing flurry of gold-related exploration activity in Central Newfoundland.
Newfoundland and Labrador is a province of just over 500,000 people, sparsely populated over a huge land mass. We account for 43% of Canada’s iron ore shipments, and just under a quarter of the country’s nickel shipments. Our projected gross value of mineral shipments for 2021 is approximately C$4 billion with about C$82.6 million projected exploration expenditures for 2021. The mining industry contributes approximately 5.5% towards our GDP, and we are estimating just over 7,700 person years of employment for 2021. During 2020, we had the highest amount of claim staking in our province since 2008 with 47,200 claims staked. There have already been nearly 80,000 claims staked so far in 2021 (as of July 14th) and we have received nearly 500 exploration plans.
How is the province equipped to keep up with such significant growth from an infrastructure and human resource perspective?
Employment opportunities are arising faster than our population can fill them and consequently, we are working hard to incentivize population growth and immigration.
What is your long-term vision for the growth of the mining industry in Newfoundland and Labrador?
We are in year three of the Mining the Future 2030 action plan which has four key pillars – competitiveness and efficient regulatory process; public geoscience marketing and education; indigenous and community engagement; and innovation and emerging technologies. We are investing in geoscience to put more information out there for people to have access to, and we invest heavily in junior exploration and prospecting by offering grants to companies. We are also educating society about what mining means to us as a province. We have strong relationships with our indigenous communities. By being very small, we are a very neighborly province and relationships are much easier to cultivate.
Can you speak to the role that battery materials play in Newfoundland and Labrador’s mining industry?
Newfoundland and Labrador has 20 of the minerals that are on the critical list. We are producers of nickel, copper, cobalt and barite, and have ongoing projects in different stages targeting antimony, manganese, tungsten, vanadium and uranium, which are all vital to the energy transition and electrification. We know that there are customers out there ready to consume what we have to offer, and products are being sold before they are even extracted. One of the challenges and opportunities present is that we have an energy surplus, but a capacity shortage. We are investing in adding capacity but are also exporting electricity to the maritime provinces and down to the Eastern seaboard. We are fortunate to have the ability to add hydrogen, electrification and renewable energy solutions to our mining industry and we will also be able to export our resources and surplus for the rest of the region to benefit.