Which commodities and projects are you most excited about in Ontario?
Ontario is rich in gold, nickel, copper, zinc, platinum group metals (PGMs), silver, cobalt, uranium and other industrial metals. Our government moved quickly to get many projects across critical milestones, including critical minerals projects and infrastructure. We are also promoting processing in Ontario to add significant value to our growing critical minerals supply chain. We are actively looking at the feasibility of lithium processing in Thunder Bay and our government is investing C$5 million in the first cobalt facility in North America.
I am excited about numerous areas continuing to see significant gold exploration and activity, such as Timmins, Kirkland Lake, Wawa, Red Lake and the Kenora mining district. There is a new centre of gravity emerging for mining in northwestern Ontario, particularly for gold opportunities. In Uchi Lake, Rainy River and Wawa, there is also an evolving area for mining rare earth elements and other minerals. We are also optimistic about the copper, nickel and platinum deposits in the Lake Superior region, the Greenstone Belt, and the Ring of Fire.
What initiatives is the government pushing to unlock the Ring of Fire’s exploration potential?
We are focused on supporting and implementing policies that benefit isolated and remote First Nation communities in the region. We are supporting legacy infrastructure, including First Nations led all-season road projects, to create a ‘Corridor to Prosperity.’ These projects will unlock unprecedented access to health and social services, broadband connectivity, and clean alternatives to diesel-generated electricity for Northern First Nation communities. These projects, if approved, would support the development of the Northern Road Link that will connect these projects to the area known as the Ring of Fire.
The private sector is recognizing that this opportunity could finally become a reality.
How are you addressing the gap in skilled labor and what kinds of collaborations are emerging with Indigenous communities in this area?
One of the most attractive features of mining is that it is the largest employer of Indigenous peoples in Canada and Ontario. Ontario is now offering expanded resource revenue sharing agreements with Indigenous communities proximal to mining, forestry or aggregate developments. Our government has also made significant investments in training programs for Indigenous people. This includes C$3.6 million through the Ministry of Labor, Training and Skills Development to help 150 Indigenous people receive training to start careers at the Greenstone mine. We have also supported initiatives for employment opportunities on major energy infrastructure projects, such as the Wataynikaneyap power transmission project. This will serve the interests in the Greenstone Belt and translate to a transferable skill set for Indigenous workers. Trained workers will have other exciting opportunities as more critical energy infrastructure and mining projects start construction.
Can you comment on the ongoing technological advancements in the sector?
Ontario has always been globally competitive in mineral exploration and development spending. Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins, which I would nickname the ‘Ontario Triad’, are all top destinations for the mining services supply sector. These mineral sector hubs are inventing and testing world-leading technologies that help keep workers safe and reduce capital costs for the mines of the future. I also announced our intention to develop a Critical Minerals Strategy that will support cutting edge technologies and ensure we capture the growing global market for strategic minerals.
Ontario is recognized as having one of the top ten ranked geological databases in the world, according to the 2020 Fraser Institute Mining survey. We remain committed to incentivizing innovation through opportunities such as the Ontario Junior Exploration Program. This program committed C$5 million dollars over two years to help junior exploration companies find the mines of the future. We also built out the Aboriginal Participation Fund and revitalized the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to ensure mining supply and service companies have government support. Innovation and technology are the heart and soul of what our government is investing in. For too long, certain mining deposits were not seen as market friendly. Now, we are seeing far greater interest in these deposits due to the high level of sophistication of the technology available.