By Cameron Welch
Mining is a big part of the economy here in Ontario. For many Anishinabek citizens, living in proximity to or working in a mine is part of everyday life. However, mining and mineral development is a complex process that provides both challenges and opportunities. Recently Cameron Welch and Tammy Desmoulin of the Anishinabek Nation Lands and Resources Department were joined by Ervin Waboose Jr., Community Communication Liaison Officer at Long Lake #58 First Nation on the 2017 Mineral Resources and Mining Education Tour over five days in August.
The Tour was held by the Canadian Ecology Center in conjunction with Mining Matters. The Canadian Ecology Center is an educational facility located in Calvin, ON with the boundaries of Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. Mining Matters is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to increasing public knowledge of geology and mineral resources Canada. It focuses primarily on sharing information about mining, minerals and metals and promoting diverse careers in the minerals industry.
The group got their first of many hands-on experiences provided by the tour while taking water samples and establishing water monitoring points. One of the strengths of the tour was the diversity of mining-related jobs that participants were exposed to. Environmental protection and monitoring starts well before anything comes out of the ground and such activities provide a number of potential career paths for those of us who like to be outside and above ground. A consistent theme that emerged during the tour was the role of digital and remote technologies that promise to make the mines of tomorrow safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. If you like to play with joysticks or remotely operated vehicles, there may be a career in mining for you.
Participants were able to see the results of re-greening efforts in and around Sudbury for themselves and to ask questions about the challenges and successes associated with the environmental reclamation efforts that have been going on in the area for several years. The participants visited Glencore’s Nickel Rim South facility where the company is extracting nickel and copper-bearing ore deep underground. While touring underground the different elements of the mining process and the careers available underground were discussed. The tour offered full access to company men and women who answered all questions with refreshing candour and consideration. A consistent theme was the need for young people (and those of us who are not so young anymore), to consider a career in mining and minerals as the current workforce is aging and there are many well-paying jobs above and below ground. The tour included time at the mill at Onaping where ore is processed and the minerals removed. The tour included viewing and discussion of tailings and polishing ponds and water treatment. Another strength of the tour was access to members of Glencore’s team who were not shy to talk about environmental impacts and management associated with the production in the Sudbury area. Participants were able to ask the tough questions and evaluate for themselves realized and potential impacts of the operations that are a primary concern for so many of us.
The tour ended with a lively discussion of mining safety and the development of the Ring of Fire deposits in Ontario’s far north. With recent announcements of provincial commitments to build roads that should allow the Ring of Fire to be developed and the suggestion that nickel concentrate could be brought down to Sudbury for processing, the future role of mineral development as a driver of our economy and safety and environmental concerns associated with such large-scale extraction and processing seem more certain now then they have in recent years.
Tours such as this provide first-hand exposure to modern mining. Through presentations, discussions, hands-on experiments and site visits, participants are empowered to ask their own questions while contemplating the potential impacts and opportunities that mineral development may present to themselves, their families, and their communities. Interacting with a diversity of people with different viewpoints on, and relationships to, mining makes this tour a very informative endeavour. Whatever you stance on mineral development in Anishinabek territory and beyond, this tour provides information and experience to inform your opinions.
If you would like information on the tour and others like it please visit the Canadian Ecology Centre’s webpage www.canaidanecology.ca or call Cameron Welch at 1-877-702-5200 ex. 2283 or Tammy Desmoulin at 1877-702-5200 ex. 2226.