“Minister, thank you for that great news” Bill Mauro

QUEEN’S PARK – Thunder Bay’s two provincial representative, Michael Gravelle, the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, and Bill Mauro the MPP for Thunder Bay Atikokan were up in Queens Park during Question Period.

Here is the transcript of their exchange:

Mr. Bill Mauro: My question is to the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. We all know that our province has come through some difficult economic times. Some people estimate that as many as 30 million to 40 million people lost jobs worldwide.

Specifically, we know that lower mineral prices have had an effect on the state of the mining industry in Ontario, and especially in the north, where most of our mines are located.

Despite some of the tough times facing the mining industry, we know that recently there was good news that happened concerning the reopening of a mine. Can you tell us a bit about why this mine may have reopened?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: I thank my colleague for the question. I know he’s just as happy as I am, as we all are, about this very good-news story. Indeed, the mine that my colleague is referring to is North American Palladium’s Lac des Iles mine, which is about 100 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. I was able to attend the reopening on October 13, and let me tell you, the workers and the community are incredibly happy about this, and the company as well.

This reopening means that about 200 employees and contractors are going back to work, with a significant number of them working from Gull Bay First Nation, which has developed a very positive relationship with North American Palladium.

The president of North American Palladium, Mr. Bill Biggar, was very clear about his company believing that the life of the mine can be extended for about another 10 years. That’s really in large measure because, even while they had to shut it down for a period of time, they carried on putting dollars into their exploration program, which allowed them to move the mine forward, reopen it and keep it going for another 10 years.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Bill Mauro: Minister, thank you for that great news. I do understand that it looks like this mine has potentially another 10 years of life left in it at least and that there may be more major investment coming on the construction side of things in that mine as well.

While this is great news for the company and the community as well, I’m wondering what role our government had in ensuring that North American Palladium wanted to stay in northern Ontario to do business. The cost of doing business in the north, as everyone knows, is higher, and some companies view this as a disincentive. Will the minister please tell us a bit about how our government has created some incentives for these mining companies to stay in the north and what specifically we did to encourage North American Palladium?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Thank you very much again for the question. He’s quite right: The president of North American Palladium, Mr. Biggar, made it clear that indeed our northern industrial energy rate program that was announced in the 2010 budget was significantly helpful in terms of the reopening of the operation, as well as other incentives we’ve been able to provide. We’ve got some great good-news stories in terms of the mining sector all across northern Ontario, which we’re excited about.

When we look at the northern industrial energy rate program, this is a three-year program—$150 million a year, $450 million over three years—which will work out to provide rebates of two cents per kilowatt hour, which in essence reduces electricity prices for these companies by up to 25%, making a substantial difference.

We had a previous program, as members will know, related to incentives for the forestry industry. The great thing about the northern industrial energy rate program is that it’s now been expanded to the mining sector as well, which is making a huge difference in reemploying hundreds of thousands of northern Ontario residents.