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Minister applauds industry’s performance

March 1, 2008
by Norm Tollinsky
In: News with 0 Comments

Ontario’s new Minister of Northern Development and Mines is upbeat about the performance of the province’s mining industry.

 “It’s difficulty not to be very excited about the situation in the mining sector,” said Michael Gravelle, who represents the Thunder Bay-Superior constituency in northwestern Ontario. “We know that in the last year, just on an exploration basis alone, we’ve seen spending of more than $500 million, while revenues for the industry as a whole were well over $9 billion, up two billion from the year before.”

Gravelle, first elected in June 1995, was sworn in as Minister October 30th, succeeding Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci, who was appointed Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

 “It’s a good time to be Minister of Mines,” said Gravelle. “There are challenges – there’s no question about it, but we’re working very, very closely with the mining sector and our First Nation partners to continue to move forward in a positive way.”

Topping Gravelle’s priority list is the development of a consultation framework to facilitate exploration and mining activity in First Nation traditional territories.

 “We are keen to help the mining sector move their projects forward in conjunction with our obligations to consult with First Nation communities,” said Gravelle. “There are tremendous opportunities for everyone in terms of the future of mining and the benefits that can be shared by everyone. Although there are some high profile situations that are difficult, the fact is there is some very good work being done.”

The high profile situation Gravelle was referring to concerns a standoff between Platinex Inc. and the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation over exploration activity and access to the junior miner’s Big Trout Lake property 580 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

The First Nation community has barred drill crews from the property and refused to enter into discussions with Platinex until it is able to negotiate a claim to sovereignty over its traditional lands.

The Ministry is meeting with mining companies and First Nation communities to formalize a consultation process and is gearing up for a review of the province’s Mining Act.

 “The process will take the better part of a year,” said Gravelle. “We need to do this right. We need to do it thoroughly and in an open and up-front way.”

In the meantime, the Ministry has adopted a transitional arrangement to provide First Nation communities with earlier notice of claim staking and other exploration activity on their traditional lands.

Record-breaking exploration and deposit appraisal expenditures and buoyant commodity prices overshadow the standoff at Big Trout Lake. Elsewhere in Northern Ontario, First Nation communities are welcoming the economic spinoffs of exploration and mining activity.

 “I’ve seen the impact of exploration spending in the communities that I represent,” said Gravelle. “I’ve seen it in Geraldton and Longlac and all across northwestern Ontario. People in these communities are seeing the benefits, so we want to make sure these benefits accrue to everyone.”

Gravelle said he will continue to support the Ontario Mineral Industry Cluster Council, which was established by Bartolucci to lever the province’s mineral industry assets.

 “I have every intention of carrying on with the mining cluster council,” he said. “It does great work and has been very helpful to us.”

Gravelle said he also recognizes the important contribution of the province’s mining supply and service sector.

 “There are an incredible number of supplies and services that are produced and needed and, if things continue to develop as it appears they will, it will become an even larger factor, so it is a sector we want to continue to support and that’s what I intend to do.”


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