Mining on the minds at City Hall in Thunder Bay

Thunder BayTHUNDER BAY – Mining activity in Northwestern Ontario is generating action at City Hall in Thunder Bay. The City of Thunder Bay is developing a multi-faceted Mining Readiness Strategy that will work with key stakeholders to capitalize on the Ring of Fire Development.

“We fully understand the magnitude of the Ring of Fire and plan to maximize its benefits by working with Fort William First Nation, other First Nations, the CEDC, the Province and our key Regional stakeholders,” said Mayor Keith Hobbs.

Natural Resources Canada states, “In 2009, total direct employment in the mining and mineral-processing industries – 307 000 people – accounted for 2.1 percent of Canada’s total employment. Approximately 51 000 people were employed in mining, 59 000 people were employed in smelting and refining, and 197 000 people were employed in the mineral-processing and manufacturing industries”.

There were 209 mines in operation in Canada that year. There are an average of almost 300 people employed in the average active mine in Canada. That does not include the support workers, and related economic activity that mining will bring.

“I have heard from Bill Boor, Cliffs Senior Vice-President of Global Ferroalloys, and will be discussing this plan further with him. I will also follow up with Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle to reinforce the need to move forward. The City and Fort William First Nation put forward an excellent proposal to Cliffs and we will continue to make the most out of this incredible opportunity,” the Mayor said. Earler in the week, the Mayor expressed frustration at Michael Gravelle over the Ontario Government’s efforts with Cliffs Natural Resources.

Hobbs added that ongoing communication and consultation between all levels of government, including First Nations, is extremely important to maximize the benefits from the Ring of Fire – one of Ontario’s largest economic development opportunities.

Some Mining Readiness Strategy goals include maximizing job creation opportunities for people living in the Thunder Bay Region; maximizing business opportunities by using regional companies to explore, construct and operate mines; and identifying, developing and training the region’s workforce to support all new employment requirements.

“With this Strategy, we will continue working diligently with both the Province and the Federal Government to further the interests of Thunder Bay and our Region,” said Councillor Joe Virdiramo, Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee Chair. “We understand the importance of working together and look forward to increased growth and investment related to mining.”

The North Superior Workforce Planning Board recently produced a report on mining jobs in the Thunder Bay District. “Between 3 and 8 major mining projects are expected to come into construction and production over the short to medium term (2 to 5 years). These advanced development projects have been incorporated into the forecasting model, resulting in a significant projected increase in size of the regional mining workforce under both the baseline and the expansionary scenarios – more than 30 percent and 70 percent, respectively. In contrast, the most recent Ontario-wide forecasts (2011) show a contraction in total mining sector employment of between 8,500 and 10,000 jobs, depending on the economic outlook”.

“The analysis in this report shows the following key factors:

1) Even under a pessimistic industry growth outlook for the Thunder Bay region – where total employment in the mining sector could contract by some 20 percent – employers will still need to hire more than 1,100 workers over the next decade just to replace workers who are leaving the region or sector for other employment or who are retiring.
2) Under the baseline and expansionary scenarios – both deliberately conservative forecasts – the pressure to hire workers in all occupational areas increases, with hiring requirements of 2,840 and 4,150 workers respectively.
3) Under all three scenarios, the occupations in highest demand will include trades and production occupations such as underground miners, millwrights, minerals processors, heavy equipment operators and electricians. This is not surprising given the expected growth as advance development projects move into production.”

The report on mining sector employment also states:

“Mining sector employment for the Thunder Bay District was estimated at just over 2,125 workers in 2011. Thus in the baseline scenario, total employment by 2022 is forecasted to be 2,785 – an increase of over 30 per cent. The contractionary scenario shows the size of the total mining workforce in the region decreasing by some 20 percent, while hiring requirements remain positive and significant – more than 1,000 workers required to replace those who leave the region’s mining workforce for other regions or other sectors or because they retire. Under the expansionary scenario, total employment in the Thunder Bay district’s mining industry increases by over 70 per cent to almost 3,700 employees”.