On March 3, 2019, the Government of Canada released the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (“CMMP”) with hopes that it will represent “a milestone in the history of Canadian mining.”
The CMMP was authored jointly by mining ministers across the country. The project involved discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples, Non-Governmental Organizations, and the private sector. The CMMP’s website notes that ownership and responsibility for natural resource management rests primarily with the provinces and territories, and that the CMMP is not aimed at “supplanting” plans and strategies already in place in support of mining industries across the country. Rather, the CMMP’s overall aim is to create a framework for addressing systematic challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by cooperation.
The CMMP provides information about the current state of Canada’s mining industry, with a focus on outlining opportunities for growth and development. It will be followed by a series of “Action Plans” designed to operationalize the CMMP. The first of the Action Plans will be cooperatively developed by governments across the country, and is expected to be released in 2020. The first Action Plan is forecast to include “near-term actions supported by current data, rigorous research and analysis, and input from stakeholders and partners.”
In addition to representing a vision statement, the CMMP includes a statement of principles for mining industry success. Most prominently, it features the following six “Strategic Directions,” each of which contains an overview of areas where action is prescribed:
- Economic Development and Competitiveness;
- Advancing the Participation of Indigenous Peoples;
- The Environment;
- Science, Technology and Innovation;
- Communities; and
- Global Leadership.
Economic Development: This Strategic Direction notes the recent decline in Canada’s share of worldwide mining exploration budgets. To address this, it gives a broad direction to individual jurisdictions across the country to adjust their tax and other policies and adopt or revise regulations to create an investment environment that is more competitive and easier to navigate. The CMMP notes that working with Indigenous Peoples will be key to the success of Canada’s mining industry: settling land claims as a part of reconciliation will have a positive effect on investment in the mining industry. Further, this Strategic Direction touts the importance of free, publicly available geological, geophysical, geochemical, and other data and maps.
Indigenous Peoples: The CMMP calls for increased participation of Indigenous Peoples in mining ventures. Respecting Aboriginal and treaty rights is at the forefront of this Strategic Direction, which prescribes early relationship building between industry and indigenous communities where mining projects are being contemplated. The goal is that these relationships will lead to prosperity for indigenous communities. The CMMP suggests that reducing barriers to participation of indigenous women in mining projects can bring benefits for communities, as well as help bridge the labour gap for skilled workers.
The Environment: This Strategic Direction recognizes the huge amount of energy that is used by mining operations, whether through the comminution process, advanced air ventilation systems, or otherwise. The CMMP notes that Canadians expect that mining activities include measures to minimize environmental impacts. Meeting those expectations will involve reducing waste through innovative technological means, and switching to alternate and renewable energy sources where possible.
Science, Technology, and Innovation: This Strategic Direction suggests ways in which the mining sector would be wise to consider a collaborative approach to research and development, not necessarily with business competitors, but rather with other business sectors. The CMMP gives the example of the use of short-wave infrared radiation – technology also being leveraged in the agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors – to prepare mineral samples. While the CMMP notes Canada’s strong research and development systems, it also acknowledges opportunities and need for improved links between academic research and industry.
Communities: This initiative will involve bolstering “mining literacy”: teaching Canadians about how mining benefits individuals and communities. This section of the CMMP also details the business case for more women working in the mining sector, citing studies which show that increased participation of women has led to greater prosperity for businesses all over the world.
Global Leadership: Finally, the CMMP focuses on its goal of a “sharpened competitive edge and increased global leadership for Canada.” This Strategic Direction recognizes that foreign investment in the industry is critical. It notes that there is a lack of consistent data and coordination across levels of government in Canada, and that this contributes to the perception that Canada is a complex investment environment. To address this, the CMMP proposes a multi-pronged approach to winning additional foreign direct investment. This approach would highlight Canada's already excellent public geoscience, skilled workforce, and other advantages. Another prong of this approach would involve the creation of a unified branding strategy for the mining industry in Canada.
The CMMP includes much more detail than we have included here, including broadly stated timeline goals for outcomes of each strategic direction. However, as mentioned, the mining industry will have to wait for the forthcoming Action Plans to see more concrete examples of how the federal government plans to operationalize the CMMP.
As of the date of this article, all but two provinces and territories had endorsed the CMMP. The ministers responsible for mining from Ontario and Saskatchewan have not agreed to sign on and provided a joint statement as to their concerns here.