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Timmins Mayor George Pirie highly optimistic about mining’s future

Jan 15, 2021

By Kevin Vincent
Ask the mayor of Timmins about the state and future of mining in Timmins and you are in for a lesson on global economics.
Timmins is undergoing a huge boost to its mining sector and George Pirie couldn’t be happier for the entire region.
Pirie, the former President and CEO of Placer Dome Canada, played a pivotal role in early talks with Kirkland Lake Gold on their decision to move its Canadian Operations Centre and more than 120 jobs to Timmins, a project Pirie quietly initiated when he was first elected in 2018. Add to that, the announcement of IAMGOLD’s billion-dollar Cote Lake Mine south of Timmins, and a massive uptick in exploration in the Timmins camp, and you have an extremely robust picture that any mayor would welcome.
With the rising price of gold and other commodities, Pirie sees Timmins and the surrounding region benefiting greatly on several fronts.
“I’m very, very happy in relation to what we see with the mining space here in Timmins. Obviously, we’ve had very, very robust gold prices. They’ve softened a wee bit in the last month or so, but still $1850US is still a very, very, very good price. And in the markets, they say on-risk or off-risk. When we’re talking about trillions and trillions of debt out there, gold has got nothing but a good future.”
Pirie points out that the American economy has been hurt by the fact that oil prices have softened, and they may be softened permanently. “For a period of time, the US was the largest producer of crude in the world. And they had achieved independence from the Saudis, the Middle East sources of oil and they’ve lost that advantage. The fracking sources are highly dependent on price and that industry has a very rapid depletion rate.”
Then there’s trade wars that are brewing with the Chinese. The Chinese are aggressively moving off of fossil fuels and coal. They’re expanding energy sources just to include oil, and coal.  “Their whole objective is to be energy independent. The Chinese economy this last year, has achieved double digit growth. And they hold more gold than anybody else.”
While junior miners and majors are making dozens of moves in and around the Timmins camp, Pirie says global geo-politics are clearly going to have a major impact on precious, base, and rare earth metals.
“In 1956, that’s exactly what the US did with Britain and France, where they just started to sell the British and France financial instruments, and that was to force the French and the British to release the Suez Canal.”
Pirie says the Chinese are very close today to wielding the same type of influence that the US had 1956 with the Suez Canal crisis. “The Chinese, obviously, are buying gold for a reason. I think it’s inevitable that a Suez-like event is going to happen, you’ll be looking at $5,000 to $10,000 per ounce for gold,” he adds.
Why? “Because the world as we’ve just seen, evidenced by COVID-19, is not comfortable with just the US financial instruments that all the debts be denominated in US currencies. And that’s the ultimate strength for gold.”
And where there’s strength for gold, that spells strength for northern Ontario and northwestern Quebec where gold and other commodities are in abundance.
“That’s why I stress all the time, that especially in Northern Ontario, we need the same types of incentives that Quebec has. All of these territories have to be drilled. So, the drills are turning, companies are thriving, because if you drill, you’re going to find something. We’re so well-endowed. That’s from a precious metal point of view.”
Pirie says it’s the same for base metals. “What we’re seeing with the base metals, with copper and zinc and nickel, especially, nickel’s back over seven bucks an ounce, copper’s about a little bit over three bucks, I didn’t check the price of zinc today, but it was about a buck 25 last week. That’s a pretty good price. And so, again, with the drills testing, churning, you will find the materials here in the Canadian Archaean. So, from a micro point of view, yes, that’s a very, very good time to be looking for minerals, notwithstanding, the boom in battery minerals which people are looking for.”


Then there’s the shift to battery metals and rare earths. The Timmins mayor is quick to point out that again, geo-politics and shifting global appetites for a greener economy are big wins for the north, and Timmins in particular.
“Let’s turn back to China. China controls the rare earth in Congo. And I was just talking with a group of Japanese investors just last week, and they’re very, very aware of the fact that how the world could be held to ransom, because of the Chinese stranglehold on these battery minerals, to the point that sanctions were threatened. And so, there’s this switch to where the real power comes from. The power and currencies have always been associated with fossil fuels. And now of course, you can see that that is changing to battery minerals.”
Pirie says there’s a requirement for everyone else to find these minerals. “A few months ago, maybe back in the summer, there was reports scoffing at, of course, President Trump wanting to buy Greenland, and they didn’t understand. Well, it wasn’t an idle wish. Greenland has rare earth. And it’s the same rock, of course, that was attached to Baffin Island and the Canadian Archaean, it’s the same rock. These are strategic metals.”
The former mining executive turned politician, says the shift is very real, and it will be lasting. “This isn’t something that’s fleeting, this is something that’s going to be there for long term. We’re just starting to look for those. There hasn’t been a serious thrust for those metals.”
And it won’t be by accident he suggests. Niobium deposits for example (see article about NioBay on Page 78), were discovered in the Chapleau area back in the 1950’s and 1960’s and now there’s a huge deposit waiting to be finalized south of Moosonee.
The global attention-shift has led to a measurable spike in the number of companies coming to Timmins.
“Yeah, it’s very, very interesting, as I said, I was just talking to the Japanese investors. They want to know (what Timmins has to offer). It’s very appropriate that our new resident geologist here in Timmins is focused on rare earth. And I’m hoping what we’ll do is promote the interest for the exploration of those rare earths here in the Porcupine area.”


The other facet of the mining industry that Pirie wants to tackle is value-added manufacturing. “There’s a type of metals that we can use right through to the finished product. I mean, the value-added industry can be located right here as well. And that’s what we’ll be shooting for.”
Mining Life put Pirie’s assertion to the test, we asked: “To put you on the spot about that, it’s been talked about in Timmins as you know, probably for 50 years. And for whatever reason, we’ve not taken it seriously, or the time and effort just wasn’t really put into it that there is this extraordinary opportunity to do value-added manufacturing right here in Timmins where the source of the raw material is – how would your approach be different?”
“Let’s just focus on Imerys Talc just for instance. There’s an industrial metal, from my point of view, this should be huge for Timmins. Imerys had some problems a couple of years ago in relation to lawsuits associated with talcum powder. So, the Canadian division of talcum producers, we’ve got one over at Horwood Lake, the facilities here in Timmins had filed Chapter 13 which is to protect themselves.”
“So, the Canadian arm of that business which produced the talc was sold, and it was bought by a corporation that’s owned by Aaron Regent. Aaron Regent is president CEO of Niobec in St. Johns. Aaron is an accomplished businessman. He’s chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia. He is an ex-president and CEO of Barrick. So, what we’re talking about here, is now a Canadian champion, Aaron Regent who is now running a corporation that owns one of the best TALC facilities in the world really, here in Canada.”
When Pirie campaigned for mayor in 2018, he toured the Imerys facility in Timmins. “In talking to the Imerys Talc people, they were shipping 21-ton totes to Toronto, and those totes were shipped to Germany, where there was some additives mixed, and then, they were shipped to China. They were making ceramic brake pads. I don’t know why you would have to make them any place other than here in Timmins. If you can make them in China and ship them all over the world, I don’t know why you can’t make them in Timmins and ship them all over the world.”
“So, I think we are limited only by our vision on this, where we’ve got a huge push to diversify the economy and that’s what we must do here in Timmins. So that’s what has to happen here.
“Half of the product out of Foleyet gets shipped to Chapleau, and it gets down into New York and it gets transformed, and on to the Corning Glass facilities. We have to look further down that value chain and say, well, why can’t they be here? Because we’ve got everything that would be required to ensure that that production happens here.”

Link to Mining Life & Exploration News Magazine, Northern Ontario's Mining Voice.


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