MPP on the right track with private member’s bill

By Wayne Snider, The Daily Press

Changing just a few words in government legislation can have a huge impact.

That is what MPP Gilles Bisson is trying to do with his private member’s bill.

The NDP representative for Timmins-James Bay wants the provincial government to make a small, but significant, change to the Mining Act.

Right now, under the auspices of the Mining Act, companies need special permission from the provincial government if they want to take ore mined in Ontario out of Canada for processing.

There are special cases where it would be considered too costly for a company to establish a processing operation, particularly if it is from a specialized area.

For example, many of the diamonds shipped from De Beers Canada’s Victor Mine project are processed out of country.

Granting this permission isn’t a huge deal. It just creates more paperwork.

Bisson would like to see the Mining Act altered so special permission is required to send ore from Ontario out of province, rather than Canada, for processing.

There is precedent in Canada for such legislation. It was created in Newfoundland and Labrador earlier in the decade when concerns arose around the development of the Voisey’s Bay nickel project.

The provincial government was worried that Inco would just take ore from Newfoundland and ship it to Sudbury or Thompson, Man., for processing — meaning the host province of the resource would miss out on the value-added jobs.

Hmmm … sounds familiar.

It was 2002 when the N.L. government passed the legislation. One controversial part of the deal with Inco, according to the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, was the shipping of ore to Sudbury and Thompson while Inco developed a new state-of-the-art facility.

“Instead of a performance bond, the province has imposed strict timelines on the company,” said an article written in 2002, posted on the AIMS website.

“No ore concentrate can be shipped out until the experimental hydrometallurgical pilot plant is ready to process ore in Argentia (a port community in south Newfoundland), and there is a fixed deadline for Inco to commit to a full-scale processing facility, or if the hydrometallurgical process fails, to a facility that would do the final processing of already smelted nickel.”

(Anyone interested in reading the complete AIMS article can do so at

The new permanent nickel met site is being built by Vale Inco in Long Harbour, N.L. — something the host community displays prominently on its website today.

“As the selected location for construction of Vale Inco’s commercial nickel processing facility, Long Harbour has a bright future as an industrial center,” states the town’s website ( “We’re open for business!”

Obviously, the Voisey’s Bay legislation was more involved than changing a few words in the mining act. However, the intent of Bisson’s private member bill is the same: Companies that want to benefit from taking Northern Ontario resources must share their wealth creation by giving Northerners an opportunity to get the coveted value-added jobs.

Bisson’s bill deals with the future. It is vital for the long-term economic picture of Northern Ontario.

The Voisey’s Bay legislation also proves it is possible for a government to negotiate with big companies when it comes to processing. In Newfoundland, two major facilities had to be built — a temporary met site in Argentia and the permanent one in Long Harbour.

Here, there is an existing state-of-the-art metallurgical site in Timmins. It is an asset that must not be allowed to fall by the wayside — even if it ends up being operated by a company other than Xstrata Copper.

But there has to be a willingness for Queen’s Park to step forward and be a true champion for Northerners.

Having all our raw resources shipped out of province for processing is an economic killer. Just ask communities where the economy is closely tied to forestry. Firms are still getting their wood, but the processing is being done elsewhere. Hence the closures of mills across the North.

If all of Ontario wants to enjoy the benefits of the North’s resources, it’s only fair that Northerners be allowed the opportunity to prosper.

If not, maybe it is time Northerner’s had complete control of their own destiny.