Investors bullish on Newfoundland and Labrador’s mining potential

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Appeared in the St. John's Telegram, June 1, 2023
Investors bullish on Newfoundland and Labrador’s mining potential

With the economic downturn of the pandemic largely in the rearview mirror, Newfoundland and Labrador is poised to be the third-fastest-growing provincial economy in 2023 (trailing only Saskatchewan and Alberta). Strong commodities markets are boosting the province’s oil and gas sector, but it’s important not to overlook another growing industry in the province—mining.

According to the provincial government, the province is home to 23 of the 31 critical minerals in Canada, in addition to base metals. In 2022, 11 mines across Newfoundland and Labrador produced approximately $5.4 billion in mineral shipments and employed more than 8,000 people. So mining is already a major industry, but investors are clearly bullish on the province’s potential. In fact, according to the latest survey of senior executives in the mining industry (published by the Fraser Institute), Newfoundland and Labrador is the 4th most attractive jurisdiction for mining investment (out of 62 jurisdictions) trailing only Nevada, Western Australia and Saskatchewan.

Broadly speaking, the survey measures two categories—mineral potential and government policies.

For mineral potential, Newfoundland and Labrador is the 9th most attractive jurisdiction in the world. While much of the province’s current mining activity is in iron ore, nickel and copper, recent gold discoveries might explain why investors view the province as a premier mining investment destination. In fact, the province’s Valentine Gold Project passed environmental approval in 2022 and is set to become Atlantic Canada’s largest gold mine. And the province is well-positioned with a strong stock of critical minerals, which are increasingly in demand.

But the big move was for government policies, as the province rose from 18th (out of 84 jurisdictions) in 2021, to 5th most attractive jurisdiction in 2022 (the latest year of survey data).

Why? For starters, none of the survey respondents expressed concern over Newfoundland and Labrador’s security, trade barriers and legal system. And 94 per cent of respondents were “not concerned” about the province’s political stability, regulatory duplication, availability of skilled labour and uncertainty regarding the enforcement of existing regulation.

However, there’s still room for policy improvements. For example, 29 per cent of respondents expressed concern about uncertainty around protected land, and 24 per cent expressed concern about the province’s infrastructure and community development agreements. Additionally, 18 per cent of respondents expressed concern about uncertainty regarding environmental regulation, disputed land claims and labour regulations.

Despite these areas of concern, private investment in the mining industry already plays a crucial role in Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, with great potential for the future. By creating the most competitive policy environment, the government can help fully reap the rewards of this potential. Ultimately, it’s up to policymakers to build on an already-competitive policy regime so the province can best meet the growing world demand for minerals.

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