Meet the Miners 2021 poster

On October 27, 2021, the Ontario Mining Association (OMA) held Meet the Miners at Queen’s Park as a dynamic online experience for the second year in a row. Meet the Miners is an annual event at which industry leaders meet with provincial decision-makers to share achievements, and to discuss issues of consequence to the industry and Ontarians. For 43 years, Meet the Miners has offered members of the Legislative Assembly and senior mining executives a platform to build relationships and exchange ideas, which help drive progress and strengthen Ontario’s mining sector, while delivering real benefits to the people in this province. 

“Mining is the core of Ontario’s economy and keeps our society functioning with everyday essentials. It also provides the building blocks for a clean, low-carbon and digitized economy,” said Natasha Vaz, Chief Operating Officer at Kirkland Lake Gold and newly-appointed Chair of OMA’s Board of Directors. “As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and the race to halt climate change accelerates, Ontario is primed to contribute solutions, while capitalizing on rising global demand for green and critical minerals.” She called on policymakers and industry leaders to work together in order to foster greater resilience by leveraging our resources, mining and innovation ecosystems, and global leadership, to position Ontario as the responsible mineral supplier of choice for global markets. 

Ms. Vaz’s future forward position was echoed by the co-host of Meet the Miners, Hon. Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. Minister Rickford welcomed Ms. Vaz’s historic appointment as the first female Chair of the OMA, expressing his excitement about her leadership as the association enters its second centenary. He noted that, “Ontario’s vast mineral endowment, competitive business environment, innovation and talent position us to become a leading supplier of responsibly sourced minerals.” He assured OMA members that, “Our government is committed to the ongoing success of our mining industry,” and pointed out that the recent consolidation of northern-focused ministries “makes sense,” given how the portfolios intersect, and that for the first time, there is “real promise to be fully integrated into southern Ontario’s economy, as the big automakers mobilize... to take a look at battery storage and battery power,” enabling the province to implement “the biggest single environmental policy,” while fulfilling “our responsibility to meet market demand.” During an OMA Board meeting, held earlier in the day, Monique Rolf von den Baumen-Clark, Deputy Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, also stressed the government’s support and openness to collaboration, pointing out that, “the consolidated ministry is committed do the best that it can to serve all of our clients.” 

Like Deputy Minister Rolf von den Baumen-Clark, who acknowledged the instrumental role of mining companies in providing much-needed personal protective equipment to first responders and the industry’s leadership in implementing COVID-19 prevention measures, Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition in Ontario and Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, opened her remarks by recognizing the contributions of mining during the ongoing crisis and thanking miners “for all that you do.” Ms. Horwath noted that, “the Ontario Mining Association is a vital voice in the sector and for the economic needs of many of our communities across the province.” She congratulated Natasha Vaz for “making history as the first woman Chair of the OMA” and thanked outgoing Chair, Mike McCann for his hard work and dedication. Ms. Horwath, who has attended many Meet the Miners events in the past, expressed her willingness to continue working together with the OMA, “as we weather the rest of this pandemic and look ahead to kickstarting our recovery and rebuilding.” She said, “I know the materials you mine are already enabling the move to more green tech and clean energy – from solar cells to high density batteries and electric vehicles.” She expressed her excitement for the Green New Democratic Deal, “a plan that will make Ontario a global leader in the transition to a net-zero economy, as we collaborate with a thriving, innovative mining sector” and the conviction that, “together, we can build a powerful recovery that works for everyone” based on investments in “infrastructure that will power our economy”, “real action to reduce sky-high hydro costs”, “good-paying jobs with the highest standards of workplace health and safety”, and “a healthy, collaborative working relationship with First Nations.” 

Liberal leader, Steven Del Duca, reiterated Ms. Horwath’s point about the criticality of the mining sector to the province of Ontario, both in terms of its direct and indirect economic impact, and its essential role in our post-pandemic recovery. He complemented the OMA leadership, including its Chair, Natasha Vaz, and President, Chris Hodgson, for “always looking for opportunities to partner in a genuine way with government and with political leaders... to make sure that there are ways that we can find together to lower the cost burden in order to make sure that [the industry] can remain competitive … lure more investment to our province, and in turn employ more Ontarians and support more Ontario families.” Mr. Del Duca noted that, “there is such an incredible growth opportunity within the mining sector in Ontario,” and recognized that the critical minerals strategy consultation process launched by the current government “is the right way to go,” given the economic opportunities in this space, the potential to align our industrial strategy with global demand for responsibly mined commodities, the imperative to address climate change, and the importance of building a low carbon economy to protect our long-term quality of life. He stressed that, “the economic opportunities that exist in conjunction with the fight against the climate crisis... they are not separate efforts... they are in perfect alignment,” adding that, “we have such an inherent advantage competitively in this province to be able to drive this agenda, compete globally, and succeed; we just have to take advantage of it, and exploit it in a good way – and we can’t do that without a thriving mining sector.” Mr. Del Duca committed to considering OMA’s input on an economic roadmap for the province being developed by the Liberal Party, stressing the importance of respectful, open dialogue to align interests, enabling the province to move forward and prosper.  

After hearing from Minister Rickford, Deputy Rolf von den Baumen-Clark, and the opposition leaders, OMA members separated into expertise-driven teams to meet with Members of the Cabinet, political staff and public servants from various ministries. In all, eight separate meetings took place, at which OMA members shared the industry’s strengths, achievements and challenges. They pointed out that Ontario is one of the safest mining jurisdictions in the world and mining is one of the safest industries in Ontario, having achieved a 96% improvement in lost time injury frequency over 30 years. Our exceptional health and safety culture helped the industry to respond rapidly and effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic, protecting workers’ health, while continuing to sustain Northern communities and the Ontario economy.  

Despite unprecedented challenges, the value of Ontario’s mineral production was $10.7 billion in 2020, which accounts for 24% of Canada's total production, with 90% of mining GDP staying inside Ontario. Already a generator of high-paying jobs (26,000 direct jobs and 46,000 indirect jobs in mineral manufacturing and processing) and the largest private sector employer of Indigenous peoples in Ontario, the industry is poised to take advantage of growing global demand for clean energy and other low-carbon, environmentally-friendly technologies to create more jobs and opportunities for Ontarians, while supporting our transition to a low-carbon economy both at home and abroad. 

Ontario is in an enviable position, as it is globally recognized as a responsible, reliable supplier of the raw materials that are essential to the green economy. Our mining industry creates more economic value for the energy it consumes than most other industries, and with lower GHG emissions. We adopt advanced clean technologies at a rate of 13.79% above the Ontario industry average. Ten of Ontario’s 40 mines produce 8 critical minerals, and we have vast untapped potential – currently, there are 15 exploration sites with critical mineral deposits. 

OMA members contextualized these fundamentals with examples from their operations, and engaged policy makers in discussions on how to help the minerals and metals sector grow sustainably, creating new economic opportunities for Ontarians, while building the green economy. They committed to continue the dialogue on improving the investment climate with government decision-makers, whose strategic approach to creating good policy and governance frameworks is critical to Ontario’s global competitiveness. 

To help hone their communication skills, Meet the Miners attendees had the opportunity to participate in a session covering elements of effective public policy advocacy, delivered by Jeff Bangs, a Partner at Pathway Group, which represents a team of experts in government relations, lobbying, public affairs and communications from across the political spectrum.  

“Open, honest dialogue and collaboration among industry, governments and other partners are absolutely essential, if we are to keep pace with the market and respond to the growing demand for responsibly mined minerals,” said OMA President, Chris Hodgson. “Continuing to prioritize health and safety, eliminating red tape and improving permitting timelines, making energy costs more competitive, building mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous communities, putting in place policies to unlock innovation and lower greenhouse gas emissions, implementing Ontario’s Critical Minerals Plan... these are all things that will help us to create economic and environmental value by becoming the mineral supplier of choice for countries across the globe, whose advanced industries are seeking to tap into cleaner, more secure supply chains, in keeping with progressive ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] objectives.”

We are grateful to everyone who contributed their specialized knowledge, technical expertise and passion, making important conversations happen at Meet the Miners 2021