Evidence of meeting #18 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was industry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Arlene Strom  Vice-President, Communications and Stakeholder Relations, Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Cathy Glover  Director, Stakeholder Relations and Community Investment, Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Anja Jeffrey  Director, Centre for the North, Conference Board of Canada
  • Heidi Martin  Research Associate, Leadership and Human Resources Research, Conference Board of Canada
  • Ryan Montpellier  Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resource Council
  • Scott Jobin-Bevans  President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)
  • Glenn Nolan  Vice-President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you, and certainly after we've finished the presentations there will be rounds of questioning.

Go ahead.

4:45 p.m.

Scott Jobin-Bevans President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Scott Jobin-Bevans. I am president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, or PDAC. I'm here with Glenn Nolan, the PDAC's first vice-president. We are both volunteers with the association and our careers are actually in the mineral industry. I'm a geologist by training. I've worked all around the world for the last 20 years in geological consulting. I'm a co-founder of a consulting company, Caracle Creek, and have been exposed to many areas of our industry on the mining and exploration side.

Glenn works with Noront Resources, where he's vice-president, aboriginal affairs, and if you know Noront Resources, you'll know it is involved with the Ring of Fire discovery area in Ontario, in the James Bay lowlands. Glenn is also a member of the Missanabie Cree First Nation and a past chief.

The PDAC represents about 8,000 members, individual and corporate. We exist to protect and promote mineral exploration and to ensure a robust mining industry in Canada and for our membership around the world. We encourage the highest standards of technical, environmental, safety, and social practices in Canada and internationally.

I do thank you for the invitation to be here today and to offer our comments on skills development in remote rural communities.

The mining industry, and in particular the mineral exploration sector, is familiar with the matters being studied by this committee. Our member companies operate in remote areas of Canada. Many of the operations are small scale, with perhaps half a dozen full-time employees and a great number of seasonal staff performing a variety of tasks in support of mineral exploration. Across Canada, mineral exploration and mining are the lifeblood for small rural communities.

Throughout the economic turmoil of the past few years, exploration and mining companies have continued to invest in Canadian projects, creating jobs and new businesses that support the industry. Many of these businesses are aboriginal owned and operated, and this leads to new opportunities throughout the country. Our mining industry is a story of success and a fundamental driver of Canada's economy.

In 2010, the mining industry paid some $8.4 billion to governments in taxes and royalties and employed well over 300,000 people. The mining industry is the largest private sector employer of aboriginal Canadians. Since 1996, the mining sector has seen an increase of 43% in its aboriginal workforce, and aboriginal Canadians now make up about 7.5% of the mining labour force.

Mineral exploration is the essential first step in the mining cycle, and Canada does have a number of features that make it a very attractive investment and, as we like to say, number one in the world. We have good geology, good information available through our public geoscience mapping programs, a workforce with access to a number of training initiatives, and a very competitive tax system that includes our flow-through share financing and the mineral exploration tax credit, both of which are unique to Canada and make us the envy of the world. In 2011, it is estimated that exploration expenditures in Canada will exceed $3.1 billion, a significant increase over the $2.6 billion that was invested in 2010.

This committee is interested in identifying ways of encouraging economic and skills development in remote rural communities, including public-private partnerships, best practices, aboriginal education, and encouraging the private sector to invest more in these communities.

The first two recommendations in the Canadian Chamber of Commerce report, “The Business Case for Investing in Canada's Remote Communities”, focus on education and training, calling on the federal government to review the funding formula for education in first nations communities to ensure parity with the provincial financing model and to ensure the skills and training programs are flexible enough to accommodate the economic realities of individual communities. There are many good recommendations in this report, and it is appropriate that education and training be given this attention.

The report also mentions private sector initiatives, and I'd like to talk about one at the PDAC that is fundamental to the work we do. It's called the PDAC Mining Matters. Mining Matters is a charitable organization dedicated to bringing Canada's geology and mineral resources to students, educators, and the general public. The organization provides current information about rocks, minerals, metals, and mining, and offers exceptional educational resources that meet provincial curriculum expectations. Core to the program are the Mining Matters junior, intermediate, and senior educational resources, created by educators and earth science experts.

Mining Matters has reached an estimated 450,000 teachers, students, and members of the general public since its inception in 1994. This is an impressive number. Mining Matters is now in its 11th year of offering aboriginal youth outreach programs, which include educational summer camps for ages 9 to 65, professional development workshops for teachers, and student workshops.

Since 2003, Mining Matters has delivered 41 workshops to 363 teachers in aboriginal communities, who oversee the education of an estimated 5,400 students. Since 2006, Mining Matters has delivered 19 mining rocks earth science camps for aboriginal communities, reaching 485 youths and adults. The earth science camps are designed to engage the youth in resource materials, field trips, authentic data, and activities that explore the technological advances that have made Canada a world leader in mineral exploration and mining.

In 2010, Mining Matters organized a workshop in Baker Lake, which brought together youth from five Nunavut communities. The program was conducted at the site of Agnico-Eagle's Meadowbank Mine. In 2011, Mining Matters delivered 10 earth science camps for aboriginal communities in Ontario and Manitoba, reaching nearly 250 youths and adults with our specialized learning activities. The camp engages many partners from industry, government, academia, and aboriginal communities.

Benefits of the aboriginal outreach program include educational initiatives that improve the quality of education for youth, including literacy, science and math, teamwork, technology, problem solving, critical thinking, earth sciences, mineral exploration, mining, the environment, and future career opportunities.

The program is organized with aboriginal input for all community camps. It supports the local economy, including opportunities for staff employment in camp as well as in services and supply. This leads to enhanced relationships between aboriginal communities, resource sectors, and government.

If members of the committee would like more information on the Mining Matters program, we'd be pleased to provide it.

I must stress that the Mining Matters program has no core government funding. It receives its funding through fundraising, and more than half of it comes through donations from individuals and corporate people. It is quite a successful program.

In conclusion, I'd like to thank the committee again for giving us this opportunity. Glenn Nolan and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for that presentation.

We'll move to the first round of questioning with Mr. Thibeault.

Go ahead.

December 8th, 2011 / 4:50 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to the witnesses for being here today. I guess I could ask anyone who has ever cheered for the Sudbury Wolves to raise your hands—there we go.

Being from Sudbury, I know the importance of mining to my community, my province, and our great country. Over the last three years, as the MP for Sudbury and prior to that in my role as the executive director of the United Way, I got to know the leaders in the mining community in Sudbury. From Vale to Xstrata Nickel, all of them were saying that production in our facilities will start to slow down if we don't find ways to bring workers and miners into our communities. So even though we live in an urban centre, we still see the same issues that you're seeing in northern parts of Canada and Ontario.

We would all agree that what we are seeing in Attawapiskat is truly horrible. We have the largest diamond mine in North America, I believe, in their area. De Beers has been trying to get people employment, but unfortunately the available skills don't match the demand. The Ring of Fire is fantastic news for northern Ontario—for all communities, all the way down from the train tracks to the infrastructure construction and everything that goes with it.

Your organization is looking at getting a jump on providing the training to the first nations communities, who are there already, before the first shovel goes into the ground. I'll open that up to start off with.

4:55 p.m.

President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

Scott Jobin-Bevans

I'll ask Glenn to say some words about that since he's involved with it.

4:55 p.m.

Glenn Nolan Vice-President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

Thank you for that question. From having been intimately involved in the development of the project up to now, from the discovery in 2007, the issue is trying to determine who is ready to be employed, and from there, finding out which members are willing to be employed but don't have the skill set, and then developing programs to identify those two groups.

That's where we started our program. We went into the communities and did skills assessment and job readiness. From there, our company—and I can only speak for our company—started providing training in safety and specific equipment training so they could come and work on our project. Obviously, we're at the early stages of our development. As we go forward, we are looking for other opportunities to train them so they become part of our crew as the development continues. Also, when the mine starts production, we will have a ready workforce that will have a significant amount of training and job experience of just being on site and being part of the workforce.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

That's great.

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

Glenn Nolan

We think that's critical. We want to do it early and get as many ready as possible.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

That's excellent.

In the north, and I will talk specifically of Sudbury, there are three post-secondary education facilities. One of these facilities put together mobile skills training centres. I believe they wanted to put forward four. They were able to put forward two. Two of those were supported by the private sector—mining companies, of course—so if you're looking at diamond drilling or whatever it is, this training can happen.

The other two were requested through government funding. We're hearing more and more that it's being denied and that we don't have the money to pay for these types of things. If we're looking at the comments you made earlier, in terms of the royalties we're paying to all levels of government, should there not be some type of investment from all levels of government to ensure there are mobile centres and training is happening throughout the north, so those communities get the necessary skills and they can be employed as soon as the mines open?

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

Glenn Nolan

One of the things we are seeing in Ontario is that we have a consortium of colleges and training centres working together. Confederation College, Sault College, Northern College, and Cambrian College have come together to provide mining readiness training, whether it's diamond drilling or common core—surface or underground. I think it's critical that we continue to work together.

We're still working in silos. Our company is working independently from other organizations. We don't have the staff to reach out and work with others. We're attempting to do something like that, working with other mining organizations like Goldcorp, De Beers, and Detour Gold so we can develop a common training program that we can all tap into and have one set of management to help defray some of the costs. I think that's critical, but right now we don't have the resources to come together and develop it to the extent we'd like to.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you. Your time is up.

I will move to Mr. Daniel. Go ahead.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you very much for coming to be here with us this afternoon.

You obviously have a very tall order to fulfill all these requirements for close to 150,000 jobs over the next little while. What portion of those jobs is going to be filled by aboriginals?

5 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resource Council

Ryan Montpellier

I can't give you a specific percentage. I think we're all aware of the aboriginal baby boom that has occurred in this country. Given the proximity of mine sites to aboriginal communities, it will certainly be an increasingly important source of skilled labour. I don't have a specific number to give you, but I can say aboriginal participation in the mining industry has increased 40% from one census to the next. I would expect that number to continue to increase as new mines continue to develop and open in proximity to aboriginal communities.

5 p.m.

Vice-President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)

Glenn Nolan

I would also say that it's not just the direct employment that's going to affect the aboriginal communities. It's the business that's going to be developed around that, that's going to be owned and operated by communities. They need to have that opportunity to train their own members on management of those companies, whether through a partnership or some sort of training program where they can be a sole-source operator. It's critical at this time that we look at the whole picture instead of just trying to find a welder or a scoop-tram operator. We need to find the opportunities for entrepreneurs to take that risk and go forward to owning businesses that provide a service or supply to the industry.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

You can't take a rough guess at whether it's 10% or 50%?