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Sudbury Mining Solutions

Commentary

Short-term pain, long-term gain

The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) put out a press release in mid-April warning of a “significant shortage of skilled workers and professionals” in the mining industry over the next decade. Coming as it did in the midst of one of the worst depressions in living memory, it seemed just a bit counter-intuitive.

“Despite the current recession and the impacts that has had on many companies, the long-term requirement for people in the Canadian mining industry clearly points to a need to continue developing future talent and to pursue long-term recruitment strategies,” it quoted Ryan Montpelier, executive director of Canada’s Mining Industry Human Resources Council.

The warning was little comfort to the 686 Sudbury workers who were laid off by Xstrata Nickel in February and the 261 workers who were terminated by Vale Inco in March.

More bad news was to follow. Mere days after the CIM issued its warning, Vale Inco announced that it would shut down its Sudbury mining and processing facilities for eight weeks, extending a previously announced maintenance shutdown in May. However, assuming a positive conclusion of labour negotiations between Vale Inco and its unions – still in progress at press time – Sudbury will be back to work in August.

Signs of an economic rebound are already on the horizon. Nickel was flirting with the $6 per pound mark in mid-May, stock markets were beginning to show signs of life and, in Canada, the economy surprised everyone by registering an increase in employment. As nickel inventories are reduced as a result of production cutbacks by Vale Inco and others, we are bound to see nickel prices continue to increase.

Ontario’s mining cluster with its centre in Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay is enduring some short-term pain, but as the wheels of the economy speed up, mining companies and suppliers will be back in business, feeding the global appetite for base and precious metals. Mine development projects currently on hold in Sudbury will be dusted off and the labour shortages forecast by the CIM and the Mining Industry Human Resources Council will be upon us once again.

This issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal offers another example of how important it is to take the long-term into consideration. Our cover story about the discovery of a massive chromite deposit in the James Bay Lowlands and the first tentative steps toward opening up the entire Ring of Fire region speaks to the enduring wealth of Ontario’s mineral endowment. It’s similarly refreshing to see Goldcorp commit to the development of its Cochenour project in Red Lake and Detour Gold moving ever closer to a production decision on its Detour Lake property northeast of Timmins.

In the midst of a summer of layoffs and shutdowns, it’s also comforting to see the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada making a long-term commitment to its Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop, which is aimed at luring geoscience students into a mining industry that will be desperate for miners, geologists and engineers before too long.

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