New Brunswick government can help mining sector satisfy global demand for minerals

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Appeared in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, July 22, 2023
New Brunswick government can help mining sector satisfy global demand for minerals

Amid surging global demand for metals and minerals, New Brunswick’s mining sector holds great potential to increase prosperity in the province. But mining as a share of the provincial economy has declined since the 1990s. And more recently, the Caribou mine near Bathurst fell into receivership while the province has so far failed to generate private interest in reopening a major potash mine near Sussex.

However, the news isn’t all bad. New Brunswick is endowed with abundant reserves of mineral deposits including potash, copper, zinc, lead, nickel and metal ores, which all have significant export potential. Jobs in the mining sector tend to pay above-average wages, and given global demand, there’s significant room for growth.

Locally, there have also been major gold deposits discovered and an anticipated surge in lime and limestone production in the Havelock region. Despite the long-term downward trend, the industry has experienced a recent rebound—New Brunswick’s mining exports nearly doubled from $76.5 million in 2017 to more than $140.5 million in 2022 (which is still well below previous highs).

Investors appear to be taking notice. According to the latest mining survey released by the Fraser Institute, New Brunswick is becoming a more attractive jurisdiction for mining investment. The survey measures the investment attractiveness of mining jurisdictions worldwide by surveying senior executives in the mining industry and tracking their perception of both policy environment and mineral potential. The most attractive jurisdictions to investment tend to match their mineral endowments with a competitive policy environment, or overcome a lack of mineral potential with solid policies.

This year, New Brunswick ranked as the 21th most attractive jurisdiction for mining investment (out of 62 jurisdictions worldwide). When considering policy factors alone, New Brunswick rises to 8th out of 62 jurisdictions (behind only Nevada, Botswana, South Australia, Utah, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Arizona).

In terms of government policy, why has New Brunswick improved in the eyes of mining investors?

According to the survey, none of the respondents expressed concern over New Brunswick’s labour regulations, security, availability of skilled labour, political stability and trade barriers, which are problem areas in other jurisdictions. And only 11 per cent of respondents raised concerns about uncertainty around the enforcement of existing regulations, the province’s legal system and regulatory duplication.

There is, however, room for improvement. For example, 38 per cent of respondents expressed concerns about uncertainty around protected areas and disputed land claims.

If the Higgs government can improve these policies, in light of the province’s strong mineral endowment, it can help the local mining industry satisfy the growing global demand for minerals and help create and sustain well-paying jobs for New Brunswickers and their families.

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