Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay mining strategy to capitalize on high mineral prices

Thunder Bay's Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) says the city should take the mining industry seriously - and position itself to service 15 mines that could become operational over the next decade.

Over 3,000 new jobs slated for northwestern Ontario

The headframe of the Evolution Mining operation in Balmertown, Ont. The Thunder Bay CEDC predicts over 3,000 new jobs in mining will be created over the next seven years in northwestern Ontario. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Thunder Bay's Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) says the city should take the mining industry seriously - and position itself to service 15 mines that could become operational over the next decade.

The CEDC released its mining readiness strategy, which included a presentation to city council on Monday night. The group said mineral extraction could create more than 3,000 new jobs by 2028.

"Everything from life skills, mining skills, and skilled trades training centres are thought to be a way to go," said John Mason, the project manager, mining services with the CEDC.

Mason said the city should ensure it's ready to train the people who will be needed by the industry in just a few years.

"We've got a lot of that horsepower now, some of it just has to be rallied up, organized and really extended as we work with the the HR departments" of different mining companies, Mason said.

In 2023, construction jobs are expected to be at their peak, with more than 2,000 people employed in building the 15 mines slated to come online. Once the operations are actively mining, over 7,000 people are expected to work in the industry, an increase of 3,400 jobs compared to 2021.

Expansion in the mining industry will take place right across northwestern Ontario, Mason said. Projects that are expected to be in a construction phase are located near Marathon, Geraldton, Dryden and Red Lake.

One constraint, Mason said, is electricity. The provincial power grid currently cannot supply enough electricity to the Greenstone area, meaning the Hardrock Mine will have its own set of generators to ensure a stable power supply, he said.

Power demand in the Marathon-Greenstone area will increase by 380 per cent, Mason told council, while it is expected to increase by 220 per cent in the Red Lake area, and between 80 to 150 per cent in the Thunder Bay area.

Concerns over electricity supply is a major issue, he said.

While mines themselves are not slated to be adjacent to Thunder Bay, Mason said the city does have a role to play in supplying operations with goods and services. He said the city could serve as a transportation hub, as well as for items like catering and training, and hard goods like shotcrete and steel.

"Opportunities were identified by the study that can help local existing businesses and employers expand their workforce, products and services to meet the growing needs of the industry," said Eric Zakrewski, the CEO of the CEDC in a statement.

"Certainly, the new and overall employment opportunities identified are some of the best news pieces Thunder Bay has seen in some time. If conditions are favourable for projects to continue being developed, the next 10 years could be very good for our economy."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Former CBC reporter

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff worked in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario.

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