Who says mining is not sustainable? The recent announcement by IAMGOLD to start building a Cda $2 billion Cote Lake open-pit gold mine 140 km north of Sudbury — which will employ 1,000 workers during peak construction and roughly 450 full-time middle-class jobs — is welcome news. The mine life is expected to be around 18 years; however, ongoing exploration may extend the life of mine.
Vale’s Creighton Mine, which started production in 1901, is still going strong 8,000 feet below the surface. The deeper the company goes, the richer the nickel/copper and PGM content of the ore gets.
Kirkland Lake’s Macassa gold mine started production in 1933. With new discoveries at deeper levels and a roughly $320 million investment for a new mine shaft, Kirkland Lake Gold’s CEO Tony Makuch is extending the mine’s life for another 30 to 40 years.
Northern Ontario’s mining camps have seen many mines whose lifespans have lasted 50 years or even longer, while hundreds of others with shorter operations have still provided tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity for the Ontario economy over the past century.
Meanwhile, car manufacturing at Oshawa’s General Motors plant started in 1907 and unfortunately closed in 2018, dealing a devastating blow to southern Ontario’s auto-focused economy. Similarly, in 2011, Ford Motor Company permanently closed its St. Thomas assembly plant that opened in 1967. Now there are rumours that Ford may be closing its giant auto assembly plant in Oakville.
While Premier Doug Ford has done a terrific job on managing the COVID crisis, the economic challenges and high unemployment facing the province with a threatened and declining manufacturing sector will be extraordinary. Without a doubt, the mining and exploration sector – which has been severely hampered with lengthy environmental assessments and regulatory red tape over the past 15 years of Liberal rule – could make a huge contribution to the economy of the province with the highest sub-national debt in the world.
Now may be the time with the price of gold approaching the US $1,900 an ounce level – the highest since 2011 – the potential for more mine development and mineral exploration throughout Ontario’s many gold-producing districts is promising, especially with governments running multi-billion/trillion-dollar deficits with no end in sight.
However, these multi-billion-dollar projects like Cote Lake are largely dependent on vibrant junior mineral exploration companies – Orefinders Resources being one of them – which find these economical ore deposits and are the lifeblood of the mine ecosystem.
There are many wild stories that stem from the world of the junior mining business and one recent corporate battle between Orefinders and Mistango Resources has all the elements of a soap opera. Ironically, it was the same group behind Orefinders who were behind the early days of what is now IAMGOLD’s Cote Lake project.