Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

TALKING MINING – Stewart Muir, seen during Wednesday’s presentation, said he was surprised to see some of the results from a survey suggesting most Yukoners feel mining is not a net benefit to the territory, benefiting a few in the Yukon.

Speaker defends resource industries’ benefits

Natural resource industries need to be stronger in communicating the benefits they create, says the executive director of a Vancouver-based think tank.

By Chuck Tobin on May 7, 2015

Natural resource industries need to be stronger in communicating the benefits they create, says the executive director of a Vancouver-based think tank.

Stewart Muir of Resource Works addressed a luncheon Wednesday organized by the Yukon Chamber of Mines as part of the Mining Week celebrations.

The Yukon, he said, is like B.C.: many residents are polarized – they either want to pave it, or shut it down.

“Is it possible to have both is the question of our time, I would argue,” he said.

Muir said a survey in B.C. showed most residents put tourism and forestry at the top in terms of importance to the provincial economy while mining was last, just below the natural gas industry.

But mining provides a gigantic boost to B.C., he said.

Muir said jobs in mining provide six-figure salaries, substantially more than the tourism sector pays.

He said the majority of the 800 who were surveyed felt the environmental risks of mining and forestry outweigh the economic benefit.

But the export of natural resources remains a primary driver for the provincial economy, topping out at $30 billion in 2014, or three times more than the export for all other goods, Muir showed on a graph.

He said if you take away revenue generated from the natural resource sector, essential services provided by the province every day would inevitably be impacted, such as hospital care.

The activist movement, the anti-development movement, has been incredibly successful, he said.

So much so, Muir added, they’re wondering why the resource people aren’t out fighting for their livelihood, and wondering why they have the field to themselves.

“They’re puzzled.”

Ron Light, general manager of the Minto Mine, currently the Yukon’s only operating mine, stood up yesterday to express frustration with statements made Monday in the legislature by NDP Leader Liz Hanson.

Speaking about the need to have a better system of calculating the benefits created by the different employment sectors, Hanson told the legislature that during mineral exploration phase, there is plenty of activity. But once a mine is operational, nothing is sourced locally.

Light told the lunchtime audience benefits to the Yukon from the Minto Mine are significant, from the employment to the mine’s involvement with Yukon College and its mine training programs.

The Minto Mine spent $78.1 million in the Yukon in 2013, not including wages for the 168 people on the payroll, 42 per cent of whom are Yukoners.

Last year, he said, they spent $58.2 million on everything from air transport to fuel and supplies from local companies.

So far this year, the mine has dropped $19.8 million into the Yukon economy, he said.

Light said it does not sit well with him when he hears negative comments about the industry, when there should be more positive ones.

“If it’s not grown, it’s mined,” he said, citing the industry slogan.

Muir said he was surprised to see some of the results from a survey conducted last year by the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

It indicated most Yukoners felt mining is not a net benefit to the territory; that it only benefits a few in the Yukon.

“I am surprised about that one, because mining runs through the economy,” he said. “I would be surprised if only a few people benefited.

“I think you have a lot of work to do,” Muir told the audience.

He said the best approach in defending and promoting the natural resource sector is to be armed with the facts.

“Facts really don’t win the argument anymore, but if you don’t have the facts, you are behind the eight ball.”

Muir encouraged the professionals in the industry to do more, to pick up the phone. Those in the industry should be talking to their neighbours, he said.

One of the problems is that people don’t see the industry, they don’t see miners walking down the street with headlamps on, he said.

“Your neighbour is more influential than the government. That means you should be talking to your neighbour.”

Muir said Resource Works has an advisory council made up of a wide range of individuals – industry professionals, aboriginal leaders and even a former provincial premier.

His firm does not accept the suggestion the technology sector will eventually overtake the natural resource sector in terms of economic importance.

“It’s not the case, it’s just not the case,” Muir insisted. “And we have lots of information to support that.”

It was said during the luncheon people have to understand if they expect their children to live in the Yukon when they grow up, if they want them to have a home and live comfortably, a healthy natural resource sector is essential.

Samson Hartland, the chamber’s executive director, said in an interview the chamber developed a strategic plan last year, and communication is a key part of it.

Last year’s perception audit, the survey, was used to help develop a separate communication strategy which is now being implemented, he explained.

“We are going to be looking at telling a bunch of stories in partnership with Yukon College and industry proponents,” said Hartland. “They will be actual, real life stories.

“These are the people who are working in the industry. These are people who do not have a job anymore and have to go elsewhere. We will be telling those stories.”

Hartland said when it comes to the perception of mining, there is a great divide between the rural communities and Whitehorse.

“Every single community out there has a very strong connection with the mining industry and the benefits and opportunities it provides for the community and its citizens,” he said. “In Whitehorse, it’s the very opposite.”

In Whitehorse, said Samson, they question whether mining is even needed in the territory.

As part of Mining Week, Premier Darrell Pasloski paid tribute to the industry in the legislature early this afternoon.

The chamber will also be hosting its Exploration Discovery Camp at the S.S. Klondike from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday, complete with wall tents and representatives of the local mining and exploration industry.

Comments (23)

Up 0 Down 0

YT #5 What do you call it when a leader goes after an individual not the issue on May 14, 2015 at 7:09 am

YT # 5 What do you call it when leader goes after an individual not the issue.

Up 0 Down 0

Yukon # 5 from # 6 you are right and very true Thanks for pointing that out on May 14, 2015 at 7:05 am

Yukon # 5 from # 6 you are right and very true thanks for pointing that out.
I am not a political person and I am trying to understand the facts as they are.
Any other advice?

Up 8 Down 0

Yukoner 5 on May 13, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Yukoner 6 - Thanks for proving my point. Have a nice day.

Up 3 Down 1

From Yukoner 6 to Yukoner 5 NDP-LIB wrote the book on partisan politics on May 13, 2015 at 10:01 am

Conservatives speak what they see in front of them. The real problem is Conservatives have a political play book and NDP-LIB do not.
NDP-LIB are good at saying nothing but just make statements that are not true in fact or evidence.
Neither party has made one positive statement about anything and voted against anything that help seniors, kids, middle class, child programs, health, airports, roads, hospitals, schools, economic development.
All they support is anti development not the people of the Yukon.

Up 2 Down 10

Yukoner 5 on May 12, 2015 at 4:41 pm

You always know when a partisan Conservative is commenting by the way they lump the NDP and Liberals into the same category. Nice try. Assume as much during an election at your own peril.

Up 7 Down 1

fed up Yukoner on May 11, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Jim Lahey, just what would you suggest we diversify to? Maybe all work for the government? Wait, most of the work force in the Yukon does. Forestry? fishing? manufacturing? silly statement you made there.

Up 19 Down 0

Groucho d'North on May 11, 2015 at 5:25 pm

My perspectives and opinion come from my many years working in the supply/service sector which provides the goods and services mining companies purchase or rent to operate their mining projects. There is a diverse list of products and services they purchase over the life time of their projects. It begins at the exploration stage when helicopters, and support equipment for the bush is sold or rented by local companies who employ a number of residents. A bonus of these shops is they also sell their products to the rest of the populace so that we too can buy radios, camping gear and safety equipment as a decent price in the local marketplace.

Then if the mineral deposit proves marketable, the folks with letters behind their names get to send some invoices for assay work, surveys and legal services and again the numerous supply service sector businesses who support their field work make some more.

Then the mining company sets up a local office renting commercial space and hiring a few local people to run the office; business equipment shops sell some computers, copiers, filing cabinets and similar gear to fill the office. NWTel sets up another account for the phone lines and cell phones needed by staff. The mining company may buy or rent a truck or six and of course the fuel they run on will also keep a few young people employed at the gas pumps. Also, there be lawyers in many steps of the process to ensure a number of things.

Then the mining company begins to establish their mine operation. This means camp set-ups; gen-sets and water tanks, pumps, septic systems, large truck rentals, catering services, mechanics, carpenters, plumbers and welders, warehouse folks, dump trucks, flatbed trailers, and of course all the lovely yellow iron with FINNING emblazed in black on it somewhere. More fuel and tanks to hold it all. More jobs for laborers to build and maintain the camp. WCB gets a mitten-full of money for safety insurance, which also helps reduce the insurance cost for all the other business operating in the Yukon.

Then it might be time to actually start digging in the dirt where more money flows into the Yukon economy to get the ore out, processed and into more trucks to haul it to market. That’s more jobs in the transportation sector including mechanics, parts-people, tire shops, weigh scale operators and all their front office staff. It's also government jobs in inspectors & clerks, etc. and the many contractors they hire.

Sampson, this is just a thumbnail sketch, I’m sure you could do a much better job of documenting the many businesses that support and depend on the mining sector for their jobs and again operating the shops that provide services to the rest of the Yukon’s consumers. I know I love having the Ajax store here for many of the things I need in my personal life.

The bottom line is there are numerous jobs born from keeping these small businesses operating due to the activity in the Yukon’s mineral sector- there are plenty of jobs that would not be here if it wasn’t for mining. Ask anybody that owns an airline, cement plant or crushing business, lumber yard, car rental company, grocery store, insurance company, or newspaper.

Up 16 Down 5

ProScience Greenie on May 10, 2015 at 4:18 pm

The difference between the Liberals and NDP (or YP) is significant, not petty. Any Liberal worth their salt is neither a conservative or a NDP'er. Liberals are suppose to be balanced centrists leaning left or right as required to give the best government. At least in theory anyways. It is the Cons and the NDP that should be moving towards the center rather than pushing their sometimes crazy ideology on the rest of us.

Up 12 Down 8

Jim Lahey on May 10, 2015 at 2:36 pm

If we haven't fiqured out in the last 100 years or so to diversify our economy to something other than mining or tourism then it will never happen.

Up 26 Down 2

YKFreedom J Nailed it on May 10, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Well written piece, factual and evidence, way to go. Anti Everything Party of the NDP-LIB. Do you agree or disagree, with this statement? Yes or no? Yukoners, can't hear you. Do you have any comments, because you don't know anything about mining and what it really means to Yukoners.
Here in this piece you have life long Yukoner, speaking for his home, the Yukon.
How many of the Anti everything in the Yukon are true Yukoners. Were any born here? Didn't think so.
I know lots of Yukoners born here and everyone supports development, not some outsiders views.
Did I forgot to tell you, my kids were born here, what's that make them?

Up 23 Down 2

north_of_60 on May 9, 2015 at 9:56 pm

"we are heading down a path with a liberal/NDP party."

Only if the LIB and NDP set aside their petty insignificant differences and form a coalition party that only runs one opposition candidate in each riding.

Unfortunately that's about as likely as pigs flying. The 'leadership' of both parties have big fragile egos and a "we're right and everyone else is wrong" attitude. That attitude will continue to be an albatross around their necks. They obviously care more about their party egos than the good of the Yukon.

Up 36 Down 3

YkFreedomJunkie on May 9, 2015 at 7:23 pm

As a life long Yukoner and one who has worked for the past 7 years on and off in the exploration mining sector I can state from personal experience that the mining sector has a large positive impact on the economy of this territory. These people up here who think wealth is generated by the government pouring funny money into our 'economy' on useless projects we don't need are out to lunch. We have had mining in this territory for the last 100+ years and it has a strong legacy and history up here.
Tell the people in Mayo mining has no impact on the economy. I wonder how many millions of real dollars of wealth have been bypassed up there since the disinformation campaign called 'protect the peel' ramped up.
It is also true that The Yukon is a beautiful and special place and that we shouldn't put up with unethical companies abusing their privilege to work up here. But at the same time mining is a good driving force in the economy giving our young people good high skill, high paying jobs, that can really get you on your feet. eg. paying a house off in 3-4 years.
Lots of the boom bust negativity in mining could be overcome by investing prudently in the booms to get us through the busts. I am talking at an individual level here as the govt. is incapable of spending money responsibly and needs to shrink considerably in size and scope in this territory.

Up 9 Down 4

Yukoners we are heading down a path with a Liberal/NDP party on May 9, 2015 at 8:37 am

Yukoners we are heading down a path with a liberal/NDP party.

Up 14 Down 7

fed up Yukoner on May 9, 2015 at 5:43 am

There seems to be a really short memory in the Yukon, we have had mines working when the NDP were in power and no mines as well, ditto for the Yukon Party. Both governments shelled out millions of bucks to keep Faro going and more than once. Cassiar and Clinton Creek did not shut down because of the NDP nor did Whitehorse Copper and Keno Hill. If the mineral prices justify mining there will be mining! Why don't we get the figure from YTG how many subsidies, grants and other perks mining companies get for doing business in the Yukon, just for coming here really. Then the status quo get their knickers in a knot when outfitters do business in "mining territory" and actually bring $$ to the territory but they are the bad guys. There is exploration going on but its a new generation and the old school guys may be out of a job but hey, that's progress, change of the guard. Heaven forbid the Yukon would get more than "jobs" out of a mine that really does cost taxpayers plenty, how about we get bucks out of our mines to fix the hiways they trash instead of yapping about how the rest of Canada pays for it through transfer payments, that is just bad government, really bad government.

Up 8 Down 16

Increase awareness on May 8, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Mr. Muir would like to deal in facts? Well here are some for him to consider.
Since 06 when international conglomerates like Vale took over from Noranda and Falconbridge local concerns have been pushed under the mat in places like Quebec. The Noranda and Falconbridge were not sweethearts but at least put local concerns on the table. Not anymore and strange that this change took place about the same time as Harper took power Nationally.
The Doc channel aired a 2 hour special called "The Hole Story" and is a must see for anyone wanting to be aware of what's going on with mining internationally. We can learn so much from mistakes that have occurred and are occurring in places like Quebec where parts of towns are being expropriated so that they can be mined by these big guys. No ands, ifs, or buts.
Christy Cambells cavalier attitude about the Polley Mountain disaster has become a concern of the Alaska fisheries and oceans department as their salmon rivers will be affected also. Think how the poor Orcas feel as they feed on these toxic Chinooks. Minamata disease from mercury poisoning is no picnic either as testified to by Grassy Narrows Ontario and Minimata Japan.
In closing can we all say "Clifford Frame" in unison?

P.S. For the sake of everything that is good, please see the Documentary "The Hole Story".

Up 24 Down 6

north_of_60 on May 8, 2015 at 4:52 pm

By supporting every anti-anything, loud-voiced minority group, the NDP have been 'shooting at their feet in a rowboat'. It's too bad they can't promote responsible resource development, but then they would alienate the anti-everything minority. The anti-everything fringe isn't big enough to give the NDP a government, and their anti-resource development attitude has driven many moderate NDP members to vote for the YP.

Up 49 Down 11

Why don't Sandy and Liz come out state what their position on resource development is on May 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Why don't Sandy and Liz come out and state what their positions is on resource development in the Yukon? No they have not but only supported anti development actions.
Have Sandy and LIz ever met with the Chamber of Mines board and stated their position on mining? Did not think so.
Their contempt for mining is very clear by their actions of no development and no comments that supports resource development in Yukon.
Yter, I too would like to see some concrete statements from Sandy and Liz on resource development.

Up 27 Down 5

ProScience Greenie on May 8, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Is it fair to ask what our government mining inspectors are doing each day now that we are down to one operating mine and almost zero exploration?
A heck of a lot of my miner friends are going to be spending this summer fishing, waiting their pogi run out. To make matters worse, there is a whole lot of oil patch workers looking for work, most of the low end jobs have been taken by TFWs and our governments seem to like to hire people from Outside rather Yukoners.

I know this sounds like a rant but people are starting to hurt and our govt. and opposition seem to be completely unaware of it. They should have seen this coming at least a year ago but didn't. No reason why we can't have responsible mining but the powers that be are too busy fighting over who controls the billion dollars from Ottawa yearly to work together to make that happen.

You may be correct YTer that the NDP/Libs do not outright oppose resource development but most of their supporters, especially NDP, sure do. Definitely not our grandparents and parents NDP that were all about good paying resource sector jobs. Again, it's that billion dollars a year from Ottawa that has us spoiled and entitled.

Up 30 Down 7

SBH on May 8, 2015 at 1:58 pm

A quick glimpse on Natural Resources Canada website will show the value of mining to the Canadian economy, and it will quickly dismiss the notion that the taxpayer is putting in more than they are getting out.

It is also a real stretch to think that "fly in and fly out camps don't do "f@@ck all for the Yukon benefit" as eloquently stated from a poster above. Just read the news story that we are commenting about.

I also don't understand the "NIMBY" type attitude towards the resource sector. We seem more than willing to receive Federal money generated in large portion from the very industries we vilify.

The "pro mining crowd" have perception issues to overcome for sure, but the "eco crowd" has a hypocrisy problem that it must overcome also.

Somewhere in the middle is where we must meet.

Up 22 Down 20

YTer on May 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm

To the Sandy and liz commenter
Where and when have the NDP and Liberal leaders said they oppose resource development?
Please provide links and examples to back your ridiculous assertions.
Another example of you taking things to their illogical conclusion.

Up 17 Down 16

Stu Summer on May 8, 2015 at 9:02 am

There are benefits but a real downside due to the nature of the industry and the ethics of many of the mining firms.

Up 26 Down 8

Sandy and Liz do you agree on May 8, 2015 at 8:27 am

Sandy and Liz do you agree? Can you take a balanced approach to development or is it just one sided in your mind and that is no development of any resources?

Up 12 Down 27

YukonMax on May 8, 2015 at 7:49 am

Listen here Stuart...Fly in and fly out camps don't do f@@ck all for the Yukon.
Is that clear enough? From the reclamations of a few and notorious sites that are being paid by all of us to the mining community who isn't too keen in footing the bill or a portion of it to train Yukoners.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.