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Mining panel remains optimistic despite downturn

Solid answers — it's what mining professionals are looking for in the downturn, but they may not exist.
André Dumais, who moderated Thursday's mining panel at Dynamic Earth, said he was disappointed panelists deflected his questions concerning the mining downtown currently gripping the industry. Photo by Ella Myers
Solid answers — it's what mining professionals are looking for in the downturn, but they may not exist.

The current bust has dominated conversations in the mining industry and it loomed large, despite optimistic attitudes, at a mining panel held by the Sudbury and Ontario Chambers of Commerce on Thursday.

As André Dumais prepared to moderate the panel, he expressed concerns that have come up again and again over the last few months.

“I'd like to get an idea of how long this is lasting, but no one has a crystal ball,” said the business development officer for Black Rock Engineering. “I was lucky. I came into this business when it was in the middle of a supercycle, a boom, and it was going to go on forever, and in my short decade this is already my second significant downturn.”

The panel centred around findings in the Ontario chamber's report, “Digging Deeper: Strengthening Ontario’s Mining Advantage.” The report touches on regulatory, infrastructure and cost challenges faced in today's industry.

“I think people are hoping to get a sense of where the industry is going, and what they need from senior levels of government,” said the Sudbury chamber's president, Debbi Nicholson.

Panelists included Stephen Lindley, vice president of Aboriginal & Northern Affairs at SNC Lavalin; Doug Morrison, president and CEO at Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI); Hans Matthews, president and co-founder of the Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association; and Chris Hodgson, president of the Ontario Mining Association (OMA).

“Yes, the global situation isn't great, but there are things within Ontario within our control,” said Scott Boutilier, a senior policy analyst at the Ontario chamber.

Boutilier and the panelists focused on topics like innovation in the downturn, and the benefits of strengthening partnerships with aboriginal communities.

No questions followed the presentation, and Dumais said he didn't get to press industry as hard as he would have liked. Panelists deflected his questions, speculating whether a partnership between Falconbridge (now Glencore) and Inco (now Vale) in 2005 would have changed the current climate, or whether a downturn is the right time to invest in the Ring of Fire.

There were no solid predictions on how long the downturn would last, panelists maintained that a boom will follow, and the key is preparing for it.