Speech Article from
Keynote speech by the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) International Convention, Trade Show & Investors Exchange
Toronto, March 7, 2016
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Good morning, everyone. And let me, too, acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. And Rod [Rodney Thomas, President of PDAC] I want to thank you, I think at least three times — once for the warm introduction; secondly, for all of your dedicated service to PDAC; and third, for participating in our roundtable yesterday.
I understand that he [Rodney Thomas] has three days as the boss. You can do an awful lot of damage in three days if you put your mind to it.
Again, thank you, Rod, for participating yesterday in a roundtable right here in this hotel, when for two hours we talked about the future of resource development in Canada. And around the table were Indigenous leaders, environmentalists, industry leaders and those who have an interest as citizens and in the sector itself in responsible resource development in Canada. And this was the sixth roundtable that we have moderated across the country in Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. And it’s truly remarkable what happens when men and women of goodwill and common objective listen to each other and everybody’s perspective. I think that that is the best chance we have in Canada of moving forward as we move to sustainable development in the energy sector. It’s very important that that collaboration is the centrepiece of how we react moving forward.
And it’s also a pleasure to be here for the official opening of the largest, most prestigious mining and exploration convention in the world. And when you contemplate that last year there were 23,500 delegates from all around the world, you know how important a conversation this is and how impactful it has been for the many years that it’s been the most important mining conference in the entire world.
And it’s also inspiring to know that when the world wants to talk about mining and minerals, it comes to Canada, it comes to Toronto, and for good reason. Canada is the prime destination for mineral exploration. The Toronto Stock Exchange is home to nearly 60 percent of all publicly traded mining companies and more than half of the world’s equity financing for mining and mineral exploration.
The Canadian brand is recognized around the globe as a mining leader in sustainable development, advanced practices and anti-corruption policy. Canada’s miners have a remarkable story to tell about innovation, environmental stewardship, Indigenous engagement and corporate social responsibility. I only wish we were meeting under better economic circumstances.
It has been a challenging time for natural resources. The markets have not been kind to commodities. While falling oil prices have dominated the headlines, minerals and metals have been hit with plunging prices every bit as severe and, in some cases, even worse.
The impact has been far-reaching: cash-strapped junior mining companies’ assets available at fire-sale prices; significant job losses. The Cabinet of Canada retreated to New Brunswick about a month ago, and while we were there, there was a potash mine closing in New Brunswick that cost 250 jobs in a small community.
We understand the consequences of low commodity prices, and we understand that the federal government has a role to play to buttress against the impact. These are trying times. Nobody has a magic wand. An economic slowdown in a key market half a world away is beyond our control. But I’m an optimist. I have great faith in Canadians and their ingenuity. We are hard-working. We’re a resilient and visionary people who always rise above, which is why I’ve long admired Canadian miners.
It’s an admiration that dates back to my days in provincial politics in Manitoba and as founding CEO of the Business Council. We understood very well the power and importance of the mining sector in northern Manitoba, particularly in Flin Flon and Thompson, and how mining was the lifeblood of those communities, creating good jobs and economic prosperity for our citizens. And I’ve discovered the regional attachment that communities hold for a mine, the strength of partnerships, of industry, Indigenous peoples and governments all pulling in the same direction.
I’ve also discovered that this isn’t your grandfather’s industry anymore. It’s now about geo-mapping, robotics, cutting-edge research and latest technologies. So, I want to talk about our future and how to support an industry that employs directly and downstream 375,000 Canadians, an industry that is at the economic heart of many remote communities and an industry that injects $60 billion into our national economy.
I also want to talk about how we can help you through these difficult times to position the industry for long-term success: investment in innovation, ensuring regulatory certainty, building on partnerships with Indigenous groups and supporting mineral exploration, because without it, we won’t have the mines of tomorrow.
This early into my mandate, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I’m only meeting most of you for the first time. But the Prime Minister has asked me to help ensure your success in a world that values sustainable resource development.
One of the first things we did as a government was to make Canada a partner in Mission Innovation. You may remember that just on the margins of COP 21 in Paris, 20 heads of state signed a document called Mission Innovation that committed those countries to doubling their investments in green technology over five years.
Canada, Mexico, the United States, China, South Korea, the UK, France and 12 other nations all signed this document, which is an historic moment in the public sector contribution to investments in green technology. And at the same time, Bill Gates said that he would lead a group of — I’m going to say billionaires, but we don’t want to exclude millionaires — people with a little bit of disposable income to work with the public sector so that business and government together can lead this investment strategy, which is unprecedented, really, in the history of resource development.
What’s the goal of Mission Innovation? To push clean energy innovation and R&D like never before. It includes our early commitment of an additional $200 million a year to support innovation and clean technologies in natural resource sectors. Innovation has always driven this industry. It’s increased your competitiveness, reduced your environmental footprint and improved health and safety standards. But that’s only part of the story.
Clean technology represents a new frontier. It means significant new opportunities: copper wire for the clean energy age; metals for solar panels; rare earth elements for everything from wind powered generators and hybrid and electric cars to all the latest tech gadgets — BlackBerrys, iPads, tablets. How many of you have a device in your pocket. How many of you have turned it off? All of them depend on you finding and supplying the materials that go into them, and the demand will only grow.
Technology companies understand this. That’s why Tesla has located one of its facilities near a lithium mine in Nevada to ensure a secure local supply of the key commodity in its battery technology. Clean energy technology has also the power to change the way you operate in remote off grid locations. We have to invest in these possibilities, and we have a great new example of how we can accelerate such investments.
It happened last month when I hosted my counterparts from the United States and Mexico. We met in Winnipeg in February, and it was wonderful to watch the Mexicans deal with it. And Secretary Ernest Moniz, many of you know, is the Secretary of Energy from the United States, and he’s from Massachusetts, and therefore, a Boston Bruins fan. Well, the Bruins were playing the Jets in Winnipeg that night, so I took Secretary Moniz to the game. He still hasn’t stopped gloating because the Bruins won!
So this kind of Memorandum of Understanding that deepens our understanding working continent-wide will be very significant. It commits us, among other things, to working closely on information-sharing, infrastructure and clean energy. Are these important opportunities in mining? Are there similar ones? I’m keen to hear from you about what you think about those possibilities.
We also have to ensure certainty in the regulatory process, because nothing scares investors more than uncertainty. We quickly developed a transition process for reviewing and assessing major resource projects that are currently under review. That’s why we are engaging with you ahead of a full review of how Canada conducts environmental assessments. The faster we restore public confidence in the regulatory system, the sooner we will see broad support for large-scale sustainable resource projects. The last thing we want to do is to disrupt or unduly delay projects. No existing project proposals will go back to square one.
I know that’s important for junior mining companies already struggling to secure financing, whether it’s to further delineate mineral resources, advance mine development projects or prepare for future growth opportunities. We get it. We also understand that the mining industry has been a leader in engagement and participation with Indigenous peoples. Prime Minister Trudeau has said no relationship is more important to our government than the one with Indigenous peoples.
You’ve demonstrated through your work how meaningful early engagement can produce long-term results. More than 10,000 Indigenous people are working in mining and mineral processing across the country. Most of them are employed in upstream jobs, but there are many others finding business opportunities in the service and supply industries and in environmental technology. Many of your best practices are potential road maps for other resource sectors to follow.
And we want to support exploration. We plan to continue geo-mapping to support exploration for energy and minerals, particularly in the North and to encourage the next generation of geo-science knowledge and techniques to better detect buried mineral and energy deposits. These are proven ways to reduce the risks of mineral exploration.
We are also open to discussing other ideas with you, so the four key areas for us to work together: investing in innovation; ensuring regulatory stability; engaging with Indigenous groups; and supporting mineral exploration. And all of them linked by one goal: to fortify the strong and vibrant mining sector we have in Canada while supporting our country’s brand of sustainable mineral resource development abroad.
You’ve shown the world you know what you’re doing. You have the experience and the expertise, and now you know our government is with you. This is our moment. This is our time. This is our opportunity.
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Hon. James Gordon Carr Natural Resources Canada Economics and Industry
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