ARCHIVED - Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia: Mineral Exploration RoundUp 2012 Opening Ceremony - Vancouver, B.C.

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Notes for Remarks by

The Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P.,
Minister of Natural Resources

at the

Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia:

Mineral Exploration RoundUp 2012
Opening Ceremony

January 23, 2012
Vancouver, B.C.

Thank you to the Association of Mineral Exploration British Columbia for the opportunity to be part of RoundUp 2012, an important conference now in its 29th year.

And it’s certainly an honour to share the podium with Chief Campbell of the Squamish First Nation, Rich Coleman, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines and Don Lindsay, President of Tech Resources.

On behalf of the Harper Government, it’s my pleasure to welcome everyone to the RoundUp 2012 and to extend a special welcome to our international visitors.

Let me offer best wishes to those who are celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Dragon, a most auspicious day in which to open RoundUp 2012, a year in which we also celebrate the 10th anniversary of AMEBC and a century of global mineral discovery.

Global is not an exaggeration.

Canada is one of the world’s mining giants, and we’re positioned for continued growth. Canadian exploration and mineral companies, many of which you represent, now operate in over 100 countries with cumulative assets of over $109 billion.

Canadian listed companies are responsible for as much as one-half of all global equity raised for mineral development. Almost 60 percent of the world’s publicly listed mining companies list on Canadian exchanges. Here in Canada, there are more than 200 active mines. Mineral production in 2010 alone totalled more than $41 billion.

That’s quite a success story.

B.C. and Vancouver are a major part of the success. Mining and mineral exploration revenues in B.C. in 2010 were close to $8 billion.

There’s some 1,200 exploration companies in B.C., most of them located right here in greater Vancouver. Canada counts for 40 percent of the world’s exploration expenditures.

We’re also the largest destination for global exploration investment, 35 percent is in Canada. With good reason.

This country holds tremendous potential for mineral development, especially in the North, where we are only beginning to tap into the potential. In the Yukon for example, hard rock gold deposits are estimated at 25 million ounces.

With numbers like that, it’s easy to understand why 2011 has been the most active year for exploration in the Yukon since the great Klondike gold rush back in the 1800s.

Our Government is committed to working with the industry to further unlock the potential in Canada’s North.

Through our GEM program, Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals, we’re investing a total of $100 million over five years to expand and modernize our geoscience knowledge base.

This new knowledge will enable you to be more effective in your exploration efforts and so lays the foundation for increased economic development in the North. It will also enable northerners to make informed decisions about their future economy in society.

In fact, GEM is exploring innovative approaches to help Aboriginal communities benefit from the new knowledge it generates. Most notably, Nunascience is a new initiative being piloted by Iqaluit’s Arctic College to make GEM project results accessible and understandable to all northerners, including local governments, land-use planners, elders and students.

GEM has completed three successful field seasons with a total of 20 projects in all three territories and the northern parts of six provinces.

Twenty-four regional geophysical surveys have been completed; 454 open file releases of new geoscience maps and data have been published on the Natural Resources Canada website and more than 576 technical information sessions have been delivered at venues like RoundUp, which are attended by industry, governments and NGOs.

These products identify areas of high potential for gold, nickel, platinum group elements, rare metals, base metals and diamonds which exploration companies have begun to follow up and target.

Later today, I will be meeting with Shawn Ryan, recently named Prospector of the Year by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.

Shawn is a long time user of our data and knowledge products, and we are pleased that this has contribute to his success in the white gold discovery and others in the Yukon, key drivers of the new Klondike gold rush.

We’re also demonstrating innovative leadership through our national Targeted Geoscience Initiative, the TGI.

We’ve invested $25 million in TGI to support the development of next-generation geoscience knowledge in innovator techniques, helping to ensure your industry has the tools it needs to search more effectively for the deep mineral deposits that will be crucial to mining’s future over the long term.

The program’s focus and content were developed through discussions with provinces and territorial geological surveys and with guidance from the Canadian Mining Innovation Council, an organization we helped establish and which some of you here are part of.

Over the next few days, our scientists will be presenting the latest GEM and TGI results. I invite you to attend these presentations and visit Natural Resource Canada’s trade show booth to discuss the significance of the results.

Our booth also features information on the great number of NRCan geoscience publications, including maps, reports and data, which are available online at no charge and with no restrictions.

Supporting meaningful consultation and engagement is just one way we work with the exploration industry to ensure we continue to set an example for social responsibility.

In terms of the mining industry, we launched a new Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy in 2009 to encourage and support the extractor sector’s efforts to meet its social and environmental responsibilities abroad.

The Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development announced by the Prime Minister in October will contribute to this effort. The institute will work with your industry and other organizations to support and encourage sustainable natural resource management in developing countries.

Here in Canada, my department is working closely with our industry partners to pursue and develop innovative mining practices that enhance environmental performance.

The Green Mining Initiative, or GMI, aims to reduce the environmental impact of mining through not only footprint reduction but waste management and also through ecosystem risk management and mine closure.

Natural Resources Canada’s R&D efforts also contribute to improve mining safety and efficiency.

For example, our CANMET laboratories work closely with the industry partners and the centre for excellence in mining innovation on the ventilation on demand research project.

Another example of the work we’re doing with the energy industry is to improve oil sands mining production by developing technology such as dry, stackable drillings or tailings, I should say. This improved process promises to cut water consumption in half and reduce the time needed to dry up the tailings ponds and to reclaim the land to a natural state.

As you know, the economy remains our Government’s top priority.

Our Government understands the importance of diversifying our markets, especially in the wake of the U.S. government’s disappointing Keystone decision.

We must seek new markets for our products and services and the booming Asia-Pacific economies have shown great interest in Canada’s minerals, oils, gas and metals.

For our Government, the choice is clear. Market diversification will create jobs and economic growth for Canadians across the country.

So we must expand our trade with the fast-growing Asian economies. We know that increasing trade will help ensure financial security for Canadians and their families.

Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, there are some radical environmental groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade.

Their goal is to stop any resource project no matter what the cost to Canadian families and lost jobs and economic growth.

No mining, no forestry, no hydro carbons, no more hydroelectric dams.

Our Government will not passively stand by and let this happen.

Next month, Prime Minister Harper and Minister Fast, our International Trade Minister, will be travelling to China to discuss ways to further our trading relationship.

Minister Fast, a British Columbian, understands first-hand the value and importance of your industry to the Canadian economy. You’ll be well represented during this mission.

And speaking of trade and investment, whereas innovation in exploration, mining and environmental technologies is very important, it means little if you can’t attract the investments you need to develop new resources in the first place.

Over the next 10 years, we can foresee close to $500 billion in new investments in major resource projects leading to hundreds of thousands of new jobs and benefits right across the country.

Over the next five years, we’re expecting some $137 billion in new mining projects alone to break ground across Canada.

But we cannot take that for granted. So our Government is committed to making Canada one of the best places in the world to invest, and we’re doing exactly that.

We have in place several key ingredients that attract investments. Competitive taxes, a stable political environment and no discriminatory policies.

We put Canada at or near the top in just about every category.

Forbes Magazine recently named Canada the best place in the world to do business.

When it comes to major resources projects, there’s no question that the regulatory environment can affect your ability to attract potential investment.

We need to bring our regulatory regime up to the same competitive standard.

Regulatory improvement has been a priority for our Government from the beginning. We have implemented a number of innovations to enhance the performance of the regulatory system for major projects without compromising environmental protection.

We’ve already undertaken many steps to enhance the performance of the regulatory system with the creation of the Major Projects Management Office, the MPMO.

Now in its fourth year of operation, the MPMO manages over 70 projects representing about $120 billion in investments in communities across Canada.

We’re seeing improvement at every stage in the process. We now have a system-wide approach for major project reviews that is more accountable, predictable and transparent.

There are service standards for every step of the review process. And we monitor performance to ensure projects remain on track.

In fact, the MPMO website has an online tracker adding a new level of transparency and public accountability.

The same whole of government approach has been applied to Aboriginal consultations.

Rather than having to respond to requests from half a dozen departments, Aboriginal communities are being engaged by a single consultation coordinator and their input comes much earlier in the process.

We also made more improvements through targeted legislative amendments to the federal environmental assessment process — the EA process.

The amendments included in Budget 2010 meant all comprehensive study EAs would be led by one of three agencies — the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

As a result, instead of waiting months while a variety of interested departments sorted out who should be in charge, a federal review of a major project now starts right away.

These changes have also made it possible to better align federal and provincial processes.

We’ve had cases in the past where a provincial government had completed its EA before the federal review of the project even started. Now, we can launch them at the same time and coordinate public consultations.

We’re reducing duplication, saving money and time, all with no impact on the thoroughness of the review.

We also establish a regulated timeline for these reviews.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is required to complete their reviews within 365 days, bringing additional certainty to the process.

Nevertheless, as innovative as these changes have been, they are first steps. We must and we will do more.

Anyone looking at the record of approvals for major projects across Canada cannot help but come to the conclusion in many of these projects had still been delayed too long.

In many cases, these projects would create thousands upon thousands of jobs for Canadians, yet they can take years to get started due to slow, complex and cumbersome regulatory procedures.

As an example of this, it is the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline review, which took more than nine years to complete.

Clear timelines from beginning to end of the regulatory process are needed to improve the timeliness and predictability of the regulatory environment and further support investment and planning decisions.

The really fundamental modernization we need cannot happen without a system wide legislative change, and these have to be done together in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments.

This is a shared responsibility and I’m pleased to say my provincial and territorial counterparts agree. Regulatory reform is a must.

The goal is clear. One project, one review and a shorter, clearly defined time period.

Regulatory improvement is part of our Government’s recognition that a strong resource sector is essential to jobs and growth for Canadians.

Our Government is committed to developing the policy initiatives and making the targeted investments that will help to ensure your exploration and mining industries continue to grow and prosper long into the future.

We’re investing in geoscience, we’re investing in innovation.

We’re also investing in promoting your industry.

I was in China just a couple of months ago, talking about the opportunities for investment in exploration and mining in Canada and exploring ways for the Canadian industry to do more business in China.

These are key priorities, your priorities and our priorities.

I look at your conference program and I see topic after topic where we’re already actively involved working on your priority issues.

Public geoscience, Aboriginal participation and employment, environmental assessment and regulation, the North, the list goes on.

That kind of collaboration gives me great confidence, confidence in the future of Canada’s dynamic exploration and mining companies, socially and environmentally sustainable industries that spells success for Canadians.

Even with a century of global discovery behind us, the best is yet to come.

Many thanks and all the best for a successful RoundUp. Thank you.