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There is No Green Economy Without Mining

Dec 14, 2022

Article Pic: Ring of Fire Metals Esker Camp site. Exploration work is ongoing. Known resources are of a quantity and of a grade that support development. (Ring of Fire Metals photo)


George Pirie is unequivocal when it comes to unlocking the critical mineral wealth of the Ring of Fire – it won’t happen without full-on Indigenous partnerships. Ontario’s Mines Minister was direct – he was blunt – and he was emphatic, there is enormous upside potential that will impact indigenous lives for generations as talks among various stakeholders continue around Ring of Fire development.
Pirie’s passionate remarks were delivered at the recent Central Canada Expo in Thunder Bay. In his keynote address, Pirie made no bones about how he and the Ford government regard First Nations partnerships. “The upside, of course with that is that we’ll be developing these projects,” said Pirie. “They’ll be led by the indigenous peoples. They’ll be transformed as Michael (Fox) said, from being under undervalued peoples in our land.”
Pirie went even further about his thoughts on First Nations role in Canada’s economy. “The people that will be the global leaders to transform our economy and achieve our green objectives,” he added. Pirie repeated himself twice. “It’s a hell of an opportunity - hell of an opportunity - and it will happen.”
Pirie and federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson seem to be in lockstep. Wilkinson is touting the importance of the green economy and the need for critical minerals. The biggest opportunity in Canada is in northern Ontario and the Ring of Fire. While traditional issues that tend to separate Canada’s two main political parties continue in the normal course of politics, the green economy and the need for critical minerals is rare common ground.


Pirie and Wilkonson pic
Picture of Minister Pirie meeting with Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. Both share a sense of urgency for developing the Critical Minerals needed for a cleaner economy.


In a recent energy conference on the east coast, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson talked about transforming the economy into a green economy. “The requirement to do that was a focus on critical minerals. Again, music to my ears again as a mining guy. We cannot be green without mining. What does that mean? That means that makes us (mining) into the good guys.” Long-time anti-mining environmentalists are now caught in the crosshairs of their own rhetoric. “Because for years, we weren’t viewed as being good guys,” said Pirie.
The Ontario Mines Minister made a reference to the movie Avatar, which painted mining as an evil industry. Reality has set in – there is no green economy without mining. “Now, we can’t achieve our goals without mining. Why is it again? And why am I emphasizing this so much - about how important mining is, and how we must view ourselves as the good guys.”
Pirie says it goes back to the length of time it takes to get a mine permit in Ontario. “When Kidd Creek was discovered in 1968, a huge polymetallic deposit, it was put into production within three years - three years,” he said incredulously. “How did it go from three years to averaging 15 to 20 years to put a mine into production? Because we lost our mandate from the people of Ontario and the citizens of Ontario.” Pirie paused. “It wasn’t important. It’s important now, it’s very important. If we’re going to achieve our climate goals, if we’re going to be a green economy, if we’re going to energize this province, it’s important now. And it’s part of my mandate that we move from where we are to being the number one mining jurisdiction globally.”
Pirie, known for his diplomatic, reserved and even-keeled manner, turned up the passion dial. “Everybody, every single person in this auditorium and everybody in northern Ontario and in fact, I hope, in southern Ontario realizes how important this activity is. We must get the mandate back from the people of Ontario, they should be clamoring at us. Why is it taking so long to develop these projects? How do you go from three years to twenty years?” Pirie says there’s a lot of reasons - some were unintentional. “There’s no doubt about that. And some of them were accidents or unintended consequences.”
Pirie didn’t pull any punches when it came to the Liberal/NDP impact on the north. “The Liberal government, the provincial Liberal government did not want to see mining develop, or any resources in northern Ontario. Our mining industry fell off the cliff. Our forestry industry fell off the cliff. There was a strategy that was purposely designed to end the resource industry.”
Pirie says the impact on the north, especially First Nations stakeholders, was devastating. “I point directly at them. It was the Premier of Ontario, Premier McGuinty that said, our economy is not going to develop by people that hope to dig holes in the ground. Well guess what? It is going to be defined by people who dig holes in the ground. And I am very passionate about this. Because for years, no one has stood up and said we are important.”
“I’m the Minister of Mines. And I’m very proud of that. My background is all about mining. It must be understood how important mining is - what this mandate means - to be successful with this mandate,” Pirie emphasized.
Premier Doug Ford made a purposeful objective when he gave Pirie the job of developing the Ring of Fire. Pirie made a comment when he ran for mayor of the city of Timmins in 2018. He said that northern Ontario wasn’t important – it wasn’t on the radar of southern bureaucrats and political leaders catering to GTA, Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa. He pointed the finger at ineffective representation by the NDP MPP Gilles Bisson and MP Charlie Angus.
“I’ll talk about one of the examples. The Kidd Creek smelter in Timmins was lost in that period of time. The world’s second-best smelter globally - clean environmentally. We could be producing critical minerals with that smelter right now if it was still open, but it was torn down. And who was there to defend us? Absolutely nobody! 600 direct jobs were lost. I can’t imagine losing 600 jobs in southern Ontario, without somebody standing up and saying this can’t happen.” Pirie continued. “And nobody made any noise. Well, we’re going to make noise - 600 jobs! Why am I involved in politics? Why do I run for mayor? Why am I involved in provincial politics? Because we had declining populations for years and years and years - for 30 years. Why am I so excited to be at this conference? Because at first it focused on forestry. But it’s the first time it’s focused on mining. There’s a buzz, there’s a buzz of business around this conference.”
The Minister called on Ottawa to be a willing partner at the table. “We all know that nothing is going to happen without having a federal partner at the table with the province to ensure the development happens. We need a full partnership. I’m convinced Minister Wilkinson is a partner that I can trust, things will happen as they should, with their involvement.”
Pirie says there is a sense of urgency. “Every single year that goes by, that we can’t move projects forward, affects every single person in the service industry, and the producers, the explorers who have to raise funds that must be spent within a defined period of time, and it affects the indigenous peoples.”
“We know that every parent wants a better life for their children than they had. And in my personal experience, that happens through responsible development. I’ve seen it with the Musselwhite Project, and I’ve certainly seen it in northwestern Quebec. I’ve seen the communities that have benefited from the economic resources being developed, flourish. And I’ve seen their kids flourish. And I can see that I’ve seen their kids have a better life.”
Pirie concluded by underlining his passionate sense of urgency on immigration. “We’ve got opportunities with people, we need employment. We know jobs are going unfulfilled right now, because of the demand for these products. One of the answers, of course, is immigration. And so, in Porcupine right now there’s 800 students from India that are going to school at Northern College - 800.” “I support the federal government’s proposal that by the end of the century, there’ll be 100 million people more in Canada than there are today. That’s a lot of people. We’re just starting to recognize the potential within indigenous peoples, the kids, they’re the fastest growing part of our population demographically. I’m so happy to see the indigenous schools being developed in Thunder Bay, private schools that are flourishing.”
Pirie says northerners are staring at all of the answers. “We just have to act. And we have to act together to ensure that we secure the future together. And understand, when I stand here in front of you, it’s with great pride that I’m standing in front of you as the Minister of Mines. I’m standing here saying “we’re the good guys”. We provide the solutions. We can grow the economy. We can solve the climate crisis together here in northern Ontario, with full partnership with indigenous peoples.”
“It’s right here in Thunder Bay, the hub of Northwestern Ontario, and Timmins is the hub in northeastern Ontario. We work together to solve our problems to make our lives better at every single level.”


For this article and more visit the digital copy of: The Northern Ontario Mining Report

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