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Nickel, electric vehicles, immigration all bode well for Sudbury, says Conference Board

National economic think-tank shares its outlook for Sudbury’s economy for 2023
(Northern Ontario Business file photo)

Things are looking bright for the Greater Sudbury area’s economy, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s latest outlook, which highlights their forecast for the balance of 2023.

“Expected persistence of demand for nickel to produce batteries for electric cars is fostering optimism in Sudbury,” according to their report, which cites nickel prices increasing by nearly 40 per cent in 2022, though mainly in the year’s first half.

“We expect persistently healthy net inflows to boost Sudbury’s population over the next few years,” according to the report. “Net international migration will be the largest contributor.”

The report cites various mining industry happenings as boosting employment in the coming years, including Vale signing a deal with electric car maker Tesla to begin in 2026, and hopes to sell up to 40 per cent of its nickel output to the growing electric vehicle industry.

“Sudbury’s mines would play a key role in supplying Tesla, so Vale needs to boost their output. A recent step toward this goal is completion of a $945-million expansion of its Copper Cliff nickel and copper mine, one of five big nickel mines that Vale owns near Sudbury.”

Meanwhile, they note that Glencore is pursuing a $1.3-billion Onaping Depth project, which includes an installation 2,500 metres below the existing Craig mine and would keep Glencore operating locally until 2040.

“Glencore also plans to spend $100 million to install a smelting furnace in Sudbury,” according to the report. “The firm hopes to use up to 25 per cent of its local smelting capacity to recycle EV batteries, which can be richer in nickel and cobalt than newly mined ore.”

It’s not all about mining, though, with the report noting that retail sales increased by eight per cent in 2021 and 10.9 per cent in 2022, which more than recuperates the 5.9 per cent pandemic drop in 2020. 

Local sales will keep rising, starting with 0.2 per cent growth in 2023 followed by hikes of 2.7 per cent in 2024 and 1.5 per cent in 2025, according to the report.

The following are some other Conference Board of Canada forecast highlights for Greater Sudbury:

  • GDP growth will accelerate slightly this year to 1.4 per cent in 2023, followed by gains of 2.0 per cent in 2024 and 1.3 per cent in 2025.
  • The unemployment rate will continue to remain below five per cent through 2025, while employment is expected to inch up by 0.2 per cent this year.
  • Restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment facilities will struggle to attract workers, as many restaurant and bar workers who lost their jobs due to pandemic shutdowns changed careers.
  • The population is expected to increase by approximately 540 people annually through 2025.
  • Construction output will grow by 1.5 per cent in 2023, 1.8 per cent in 2024, and 1.6 per cent in 2025.
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