Infrastructure bank may be boost Northern miners need, says national association

The Mining Association of Canada hopes a newly announced Canada Infrastructure Bank could help the future of mining in the North.

Delegates at the Yukon Geoscience Forum 'cautiously optimistic'

About 400 delegates are attending the Yukon Geoscience Forum and Trade Show in Whitehorse. (Mardy Derby/CBC)

The Mining Association of Canada hopes a newly-announced Canada Infrastructure Bank could help the future of mining in the North.

"I'm cautiously optimistic about what the opportunity is that this infrastructure bank presents," said Brendan Marshall, a vice-president with the association who is in Whitehorse for the Yukon Geoscience Forum.

Marshall says the cost of mining in the North is often more than double what a similar project would cost in the south because of isolation, projects off-grid and lack of infrastructure.

"This could be a milestone or a bench mark from which years hence we look back and see that this decision has born significant fruit for the North, that's my hope," he said.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank was announced by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau earlier this month during a fall economic update. According to Ottawa, the bank aims "to provide innovative funding and financing for infrastructure projects and help more projects get built in Canada."

Marshall says he's waiting for a full picture of how the $35-billion plan will roll out, but he likes the initial details, including multiple options that could help Northern projects.  

"The bank, as announced, has a variety of tools. They've talked about low-interest loans, equity ownership and other tools, other creative financing tools, so it's not a one-size-fits all," he said. 

The optimism about the new federal program comes as the Yukon mining sector continues to decline.

Last month the Minto Mine, Yukon's only operating hard rock mine, closed all of its open pit mining operations and more layoffs could be pending.

But at the Geoscience Forum, Yukon Chamber of Mines president Mike Burke said there is always hope.

"It's been an incredibly long down-turn in the industry but there is a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.  

As an example, he points to Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., one of the world's largest producers of gold, which bought Kaminak Gold Corp. and the Coffee project near Dawson City this year.

"Getting a mine running takes years so you can't let go of the gas pedal just because commodity prices are low."

with files from Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada

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