Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members.
My name is Philip Bousquet. I am senior program director with the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. I am here with Scott Cavan, the PDAC's program director for aboriginal affairs.
I also bring greetings from Glenn Nolan, incoming PDAC president, whom many of you know.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before this committee and to offer our comments on land use and sustainable development. Our association, with close to 9,000 members, individual and corporate, exists to protect and promote mineral exploration and to ensure a robust mining industry in Canada. We encourage the highest standards of technical, environmental, safety, and social practices in Canada and internationally.
As members of this committee will know, the PDAC organizes and hosts an annual convention that is the world's premier mineral exploration and development conference. Earlier this month, more than 30,000 people from 120 countries came to the PDAC convention in Toronto to seek projects and investors and to learn about exploration techniques, including environmental stewardship, geophysics, land management, social engagement, and aboriginal affairs.
Over the past seven years, the PDAC convention has offered an aboriginal program that has now grown into two full-day sessions of presentations and discussions, as well as a course on aboriginal awareness and the presentation of our annual Skookum Jim Award to honour and recognize exceptional achievement by an aboriginal individual or by an aboriginal-run business in the mining industry.
The Skookum Jim Award, the awareness training, and the aboriginal program are outcomes of the PDAC's efforts to promote greater participation by aboriginal people in the mineral industry and to foster better understanding between communities and companies. We work closely with the other presenters who are here today, the Mining Association of Canada and the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, as well as many others, including the Assembly of First Nations, with which we have a memorandum of understanding.
The mining industry and the mineral exploration sector in particular are familiar with the matters being studied by this committee, and our ongoing work in this area is directly related to our membership. Land use and sustainable development are fundamental to the practice of mineral exploration. The PDAC's member companies operate in remote areas of Canada. These companies are primarily small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on equity financing to support early stage, higher-risk exploration activities. Many of the operations are small scale, with perhaps half a dozen full-time employees and a greater number of seasonal staff performing a variety of tasks.
Across Canada, mineral exploration and mining is the lifeblood of many small, rural communities. Throughout the economic turmoil of the past few years, these 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, leading to new opportunities throughout the country. Our mining industry is a story of success and a fundamental driver of Canada's economy. As you heard earlier, it is also the largest private sector employer of aboriginal Canadians. From 1996 to 2006, the mining sector saw a 43% increase in the aboriginal workforce, growing to 7.5% of the entire labour force.
Mineral exploration is the essential first step in the mining cycle, and Canada has a number of features that attract investment. We have good geology and good information available through public geoscience, we have a workforce with access to a number of training initiatives, and we have a competitive tax system.
In 2011, exploration expenditures in Canada equalled $3.9 billion, a significant increase over the $2.8 billion that was invested here in 2010. In other words, there is great and growing potential. In order to maintain this success, several actions should be taken, the first two of which were part of our pre-budget submission.
As an organization that represents mineral exploration companies, the PDAC has recommended the continuation of the mineral exploration tax credit. The METC and flow-through share financing continue to serve a critical role as they allow junior companies to raise needed capital, keep investment in Canada, and sustain grassroots exploration activity in remote and northern regions where transportation and field camp costs are high.
The PDAC also supports continued investment in public geoscience. The geo-mapping for energy and minerals program and the targeted geoscience initiative have increased the technical knowledge of our natural resources, provided field training for geology students, and encouraged private sector investment.
The first recommendation encourages the raising of capital; the second helps to identify areas within Canada for exploration. In order to proceed with exploration, many other factors need to be considered. A company needs professionally trained people, good community relations, access to land for exploration, and clear, consistent regulations.
The PDAC has worked to develop programs and recommendations that we believe can assist. I'll briefly mention a few of these.
e3 Plus, a framework for responsible exploration, was launched by PDAC in 2009 to help exploration companies improve their social, environmental, and health and safety performance, and to comprehensively integrate these three aspects into their exploration programs. The program is the first of its kind, a Canadian innovation that is accessible worldwide.
PDAC 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. Mining Matters has reached an estimated 450,000 teachers, students, and members of the general public since its inception in 1994. Since 2003, the Mining Matters aboriginal outreach program has delivered workshops to almost 400 teachers in aboriginal communities, who oversee the education of an estimated 5,400 students.
As to land use and public policy, PDAC participated in the northern regulatory improvement initiative and has developed a number of joint submissions with the Mining Association of Canada and the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. PDAC supports the implementation of government resource revenue-sharing that would form a basis for aboriginal communities to build towards economic self-sufficiency and encourage greater participation in the mineral industry.
Working with our members, we have advocated for clarity and consistency with respect to land access and permitting regulations, and we have formalized our thoughts through a position statement on land-use planning and land access that has formed the basis of our submissions to the federal, provincial, and territorial governments.
PDAC maintains that mineral exploration, mine development, and mining operations can be conducted in keeping with the principles of sustainable development and in harmony with the environmental, social, and economic priorities of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. In our position statement, we maintain that the overarching goal of public policy and legislation for land-use planning and land access should be the development and implementation of a transparent and balanced process that applies impartial criteria appropriately, reconciles competing priorities fairly, and gives proper weight to the public interest. Achieving these objectives requires a process based on broad, inclusive representation across society that promotes the involvement of aboriginal peoples, local communities, interest groups, the exploration and mining sector itself, and the public at large.
In conclusion, I would like to thank this committee for giving us an opportunity to meet with you today. Scott and I would be happy to answer your questions.