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Northwestern Ontario’s Mining Guy

Apr 30, 2021

A Conversation with John Mason

By Kevin Vincent

In March, Mining Life & Exploration News Contributing Editor Kevin Vincent sat down with John Mason, Project Manager of Mining Services at the City of Thunder Bay for an in-depth conversation about the significant jump in mining activity in the northwest. The chat included several references to the role that Mining Life is playing in keeping industry stakeholders and the public informed about an industry and a region that is largely ignored by other sectors.


Exploration is red hot!

It’s been quite a turnabout in less than a year. When you look at it, things were flat since mid-2011, and things like real estate, cannabis, tech and other areas where the money was going, and certainly not into the mining exploration side. But it’s another world now, you’re quite right, just remarkable what’s going on. But you guys at Mining Life are doing a great job, I follow it all the time, and keeps me educated on what’s going on outside of Northwestern Ontario as well as within the Northwest. I appreciate that, appreciate all the work you’re doing.

One of the wakeup calls, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, is that the environmentalist and anti-mining world has suddenly come to the realization that, boy, the green economy doesn’t exist without mining and minerals. It just doesn’t. They’re realizing that as long as companies are ethical – mining is essential. That was a great conversation that happened the other day with minister Rickford and Tony Makuch from Kirkland Lake Gold where they talked about the investor appetite in the marketplace being such that they, investors, expect these companies to have their environmental ducks in a row, they expect the bigger companies to have their diversity plans in place, and so on and so forth. You add to that, the green economy, and all of a sudden, mining and mining companies and minerals, and whether it’s critical minerals or rare earths, or precious metals, suddenly everybody’s starting to realize that we need these things.
I did catch that conversation with Kirkland Lake Gold’s Tony Makuch, Newmont and Evolution. I thought it was very powerful. I like Tony. Some of the lessons learned on the diversity side and the aspect of ESG. I was in a session maybe two weeks ago, where the discussion was what Apple’s doing and Dell and some of these firms, where they source all of their materials where they’re from, the plastic in their phones, whatever, not just the metals, everything, because the consumer is demanding traceability of product. Consumers’ ages 15 to 30 are probably demanding, certainly, all shareholders are, so it falls right into our wheel-house.

The fact of the matter is, we have electric vehicles that are working underground. We’re leading the way in many parts of the world on accelerating that growth and developing the battery industry for heavy equipment in Ontario. MacLean Engineering is a good example. I caught one of their presentations yesterday. Ironically, you can have this equipment mining critical elements, mining battery elements - with battery-equipped machinery, so it’s going full circle already. And it’s not just what’s going on our highways, but we’re in aerospace and telecommunication - but let’s start with the battery world.
I think the public is realizing that and you still have naive people thinking they could recycle everything and all of a sudden, magically, you have a solution. Well, the growth that’s been forecast with moratoriums on internal combustion engines, vehicle assembly by 2030, 2035, 2040, depending on what jurisdiction you’re in, if you’re in Quebec, or California or wherever, or certain parts of the EU, well, guess what, this growth is monumental at this point. Minerals have to be mined, and rightly so. I think people are understanding that now.

This isn’t a dirty 150-year old industry where it’s dirt under the fingernails, and it’s the coal mines of London, or England. This is really bringing the modern economy right to your doorstep.


We do a really bad job of finding ways to really articulate the impact of mining and the value of mining and the jobs and the incredible pay, the salaries that people make, and so on and so forth. I don’t think that’s the fault of any government that is resistant to putting it into their education curriculum. I think that’s the fault of the industry and not pointing fingers at the Mining Association of Canada, because they did that really cool series of graphics about a year ago. A cell phone, how many mineral elements are in a cellphone? And how many are in a car? How many things that had to be mined are in Parliament Hill, the actual building. Where is that in the school system to prevent teachers from doing the chocolate chip cookie thing with a spoon? It’s not there. Somebody has to grab someone by the ears and go, you got to fix this. You have to.

Now’s the time because not only, as we talked about, the demand for metals and the quality-of-life piece of just dealing with a modern society what’s required around the globe, but also from the standpoint of recovery out of COVID. The fact is, this is one of the few industries that is doing well. Recession is good for precious metals. Okay, that’s fine, safe harbor. But for a variety of other reasons, including rebuilt infrastructure, I mean, steel prices, base metals, copper over $4, like things that are before us now, because of a variety of needs. We should showcase that and illustrate we’re going to be contributing to this recovery. We’re going to be one of the stronger contributors to GDP taxation. You name it going forward. That’s the other part of this story.




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