Evidence of meeting #27 for Natural Resources in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was going.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Wes Hanson  President and Chief Executive Officer, Noront Resources Ltd.
  • Kirk McKinnon  President and Chief Executive Officer, MacDonald Mines Exploration Ltd.
  • Ian Brodie-Brown  President and Chief Executive Officer, AurCrest Gold Inc.
  • Elijah Moonias  Marten Falls First Nation
  • David Kilgour  Councillor, City of Greater Sudbury

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Accidents do happen; yes, I agree with that.

10:15 a.m.

Marten Falls First Nation

Chief Elijah Moonias

You have done so in the Athabasca.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

I'm sure I don't think it was done deliberately.

10:15 a.m.

Marten Falls First Nation

Chief Elijah Moonias

Prove it to us that you're not going to do that in those rivers.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Daniel. Your time is up.

Mr. Hyer, you have up to five minutes, please.

February 16th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Thank you very much.

First of all, I'm sorry that I was 15 minutes late and missed some of your presentations, but I've read them all. They were good, and I think I understood them.

I'd like to start with a couple of comments.

My first comment is to Chief Moonias. Chief Moonias, I truly believe what I'm about to say: if first nations people in northern Ontario do well, we're all going to do well, and if you don't do well, none of us will do well. Our future is your future. We're joined at the hip and we need to get it together.

We have a group of intelligent and, I think, well-intentioned people here today. I sense the frustrations, but also, to be honest, I'm honoured to be here today, because I'm very excited about the potentials if we can get it together and do these developments in an environmentally, socially, economically sustainable way, including you.... Your people have been treated badly for over a century. One example that hasn't come up today is that for the elementary school and secondary school levels, the federal funding is roughly $5,000 per student. Difficult circumstances should require extra money, but you get about half of the $11,000 stipend that Ontario gives to non-aboriginal schools, so the challenges are huge. I'm personally committed, Chief, to doing what I can to help.

I'd like to give a compliment to Noront. I haven't met you before, Mr. Hanson, but I have met some of your staff. I flew myself in to the Ring of Fire to visit your exploration camp there. It was well managed. It was a real leader in environmental controls. I was blown away by the sophistication of the environmental controls, which could be tech-transferred to other places, as we work in northern locales. Obviously you have made a successful effort to hire first nation employees; I met a number of them at the camp there. They were happy and productive, putting bread on the tables for their families, learning skills, and being well treated. I was generally impressed with the open, professional, and progressive approach by your company, which is borne out by your very thoughtful submission here today, so kudos to you.

10:15 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Noront Resources Ltd.

Wes Hanson

Thank you.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

I have a specific question, and it's a big question. In your answer, could you be short, because I've been long? What alternatives do we have to diesel power in the short, medium, and long term? It has seemed to me, from the beginning, that one big obstacle is working out relationships with first nations, clearly, but the other huge obstacle is the cost and availability of affordable and adequate power in northwestern Ontario. Do you have ideas on the short-, medium-, and long-term plan?

10:20 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Noront Resources Ltd.

Wes Hanson

We have a lot of ideas. Briefly, we'll separate the mine from the processing facilities for ferrochrome. For the mine site itself, you need about 20 megawatts of power, and you can easily manage that with diesel generators and probably augment it with some sort of photovoltaic cells or something like that.

One of the reasons Noront has proposed the east-west corridor from Pickle Lake up to Webequie is that Ontario Power Generation has proposed that same routing to bring line power into the communities, the first nations communities along that same corridor, so we're sort of dovetailing with what's already been proposed by other experts, which is never a bad thing.

In terms of long-term power for the ferrochrome facility, depending on big you make it, it's going to range from 200 megawatts to 400 megawatts. Right now, depending on who you talk to, that amount of power is not available in northwestern Ontario. The only place it's available is in the Sudbury region, but in 2020 or 2022, when we would be looking at developing ferrochrome, if that opportunity still exists for Noront and its shareholders and stakeholders, then there may be sufficient power available in northwestern Ontario, such that we'd be able to take advantage of it for the people of the northwest.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Okay.

I have a question for Mr. Hanson and also for Mr. Brodie-Brown.

What do you think is the best way to do an adequate environmental assessment, one that doesn't stop development but that does a really good job? I used to read and write environmental assessments for a living. I found that often these are just really good business plans that are holistic. They actually make things better for everybody and they're worth the investment, the time, and the energy if they're done well. Do you have ideas on how to move through this process effectively?

10:20 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Noront Resources Ltd.

Wes Hanson

Sure. It has to involve the first nations. You have to get the traditional knowledge of the first nations communities on whose land you're going to work, but that being said, that process has to be driven by experts, such as environmental experts. I understand Chief Moonias' point about the Athabasca River. I mean, we've seen it with the nuclear reactor in Japan: accidents do happen. Despite whatever level of engineering you take, there's always a possibility that something can go wrong, something unforeseen, something unexpected. What we try to do as engineers and professionals is engineer things to the best means possible based on our best knowledge at the time.

In the mining industry, perhaps more so than in any other industry I've ever seen, we carry the sins of our fathers quite heavily because of mistakes in the past and because of what happened in Sudbury. Everybody talks about Sudbury, not for the wealth it generated for Canada but because it was the place where the U.S. astronauts went to train to go to the moon. That's just wrong. That's a sideline. The real truth about Sudbury is that it developed Canada, and the Ring of Fire offers the same opportunity for the next century.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Hyer. I'm sorry, but you are out of time.

Go ahead, Mr. Calkins, for up to five minutes.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you, Chair.

It's been quite a while since we've heard from the departmental officials who came to talk to us, whether from NRCan or the major projects management office and so on, so I'm going to ask this of the mining company representatives here: have you dealt with the major projects management office in any way, shape, or form to help you advance your goals and objectives?

If so, can you describe what those negotiations and discussions were, or what kinds of help the major projects management office has provided and how useful that help has been?

10:25 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Noront Resources Ltd.

Wes Hanson

We have not. Noront has not as yet. We're starting to make those inroads again. You have to remember that this is an early stage in the development. I would think that the major projects group would be the group that would get involved once we have completed our feasibility study and have started to go out and arrange financing.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

So this is a bit premature.