Several years ago, I met a well-known broadcaster arriving at the Timmins Victor M. Power Airport. As a longtime friend, I was there to give her a ride into town where she could stay with some extended family members. She was on assignment to do an in-depth report on the mining industry.
Several weeks later, when her reports hit the airwaves, I was surprised she focused on the fact that the mining royalties paid to the provincial government were far less than one might expect; roughly one and a half per cent. Her report also noted that direct mining employment accounted for less than half a per cent of Ontario's job force, compared to about 11 per cent for manufacturing.
There is a bigger picture here. The value of mining goes far beyond any comparison with other economic sectors. It can be argued that without the mines and the minerals they produce, there would be a lot less manufacturing in Ontario.
In Northern Ontario the mines have become economic engines in their own right. Just as important are the mining supply and service sectors that keep the mines running.
As recently mentioned by Timmins Mayor George Pirie in his state-of-the-city address, the mining companies don’t just produce dividends for the shareholders. The companies spend vast amounts of money right in their home communities.
The Kidd Mine, in operation for more than half a century, annually spends more than $100 million in local payroll and more than $50 million in goods and services just in Timmins, Pirie remarked.
It is obvious the mining supply sector in any town in the North benefits from the sales of fuel, oils and lubricants, structural steel and timbers, tires and mechanical parts, nuts and bolts and even boots and gloves.
For the miners taking home those healthy paycheques, the spending continues. They buy houses and camps by the lake, trucks and cars, snowmobiles and boats, hockey tickets and dance lessons and there are regular trips to the spa or hair salon.
The SAMSSA organization is a good example of the positive impact of mining supply. At the recent Big Event Mining Expo held in Timmins, one could see scores of exhibitor booths that had SAMSSA membership cards on display, letting other mining people know they’re part of a pan-Northern agency that promotes the mining supply and service sector.
Make no mistake about it; mines need to be profitable to stay alive. So there is much to be said for the business that can build the better mousetrap, or the better ventilation system, or the better drill bit, or a better chute for loading ore or a better conveyor system for moving ore. These are all innovations from Northeastern Ontario that have made it easier for mines to stay efficient and profitable.
So the mining industry spends literally millions of dollars for goods and services. By the same token, the mining industry benefits from having a ready source of mining suppliers and service providers on their doorstep. One cannot survive without the other.