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We need to talk about the mining sector in the Maritimes
Not that long ago, mining was a pretty important economic engine in the Maritimes - well, mostly NB and NS. Even before the natural gas started to flow from Nova Scotia, the real GDP contribution from mining was around 3.5-4% of regional GDP (incl. PEI) not including indirect and induced impacts.
The federal government recently released its long awaited mineral development strategy last week. The Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy makes a strong case for mining in Canada to help address net zero 2050 and support the digital economy. There is a pile of new money and a commitment to reduce the development cycle of mining projects.
The document has a section on ‘success stories’ where it lists of a couple of dozen recent mining and related projects in Canada.
None in New Brunswick. None in Nova Scotia.
Don Mills and I are going to put a push on this topic in the new year on the Insights podcast.
We need to figure out where this region can play a part in supplying critical minerals. We have considerable deposits around the region: potash, zinc, tungsten, uranium, manganese, gold (not to mention natural gas). We are supposed to have some of the rare earths too.
We have heard grumbling that provincial governments aren’t particularly interested in mining - too much NIMBYism for the effort - but I think this is exactly why we have to have a public conversation about this. Certainly mining projects can’t proceed without a full consultation with First Nations and an engagement related to benefits and oversight. Certainly populations in close by communities need to be engaged. But just ‘no’ because mining is bothersome and carries some risk - it’s not a good enough argument.
I was in a session in Nova Scotia recently and the facilitator said the provincial government wants to focus on high value, high productivity sectors. Well, you don’t get much higher productivity than mining. The labour productivity in most mining sectors is near the top for all sectors in the economy and average wages tend to be near the top.