Our resource sector needs Canadians’ support, and Canadians need our resource sector

March 12, 2020

Canadian resource industries have put a lot of food on my family’s table.

I work for the Yukon’s hard rock and placer miners.

Prior to that I worked in the hospitality industry and enjoyed firsthand the spin-off benefits mining provides our territory’s economy.

Previous to entering the workforce myself, my father supported our family working as a helicopter pilot, serving resource exploration across Canada’s north.

And like many of my contemporaries, before that my parents worked in Faro, at a mine that provided for thousands of Yukoners spanning two generations, in addition to the benefits that endure to this day through the mine’s facilitated public infrastructure legacies such as the Skagway road.

It has always bothered me when Faro is used as a four-letter F-word.

Yes, the mine left behind an enormous environmental, financial and cultural liability, that cannot be downplayed, but it wasn’t a failure of mining; it was a failure of government.

In the news recently were details surrounding the ballooning costs related to the remediation of Mount Nansen, another enormous liability that taxpayers wouldn’t be saddled with if government did a better job.

In both cases, bureaucratic neglect allowed the messes to happen in the first place, followed by decades of dithering and indecision while permitting timelines bloated, regulatory requirements and procurement processes became more convoluted, corporate knowledge of the operations was lost, and the contaminated properties festered.

As such, these exponential increases to clean-up costs are not a result of industry action, but government inaction.

These failures of government taint public opinion of the resource extraction industry.

In the last few weeks alone, we have seen untold billions in investment flee the country due to the "current Canadian political context," with Berkshire Hathaway and Teck’s decisions to pull the plug on their respective projects.

Closer to home, we have the government literally moving the goal posts at half time by concocting a sub-regional land use planning exercise for the ATAC Resources tote road, or YESAB’s blatant disregard for their own rules by further delaying the BMC Kudz Ze Kayah project.

With acts like these it’s no surprise that the Fraser Institute downgraded the Yukon from 9th to 23rd on their global investment attractiveness index.

History will ultimately be the judge if these ham-fisted measures are effective in avoiding future taxpayer-saddled clean-ups, but that’s assuming we don’t scare away investment in the first place.

Even as we transition to solar, wind and other technologies, we will still require the raw materials to power our modern lifestyles, and as long as we consume these products, I believe they should be produced here in Canada.

Modern Canadian resource extraction is highly regulated and done more responsibly than anywhere in the world, so what happened in Faro or Mount Nansen should never happen here again.

Don’t let headlines about ballooning remediation costs give you a “leave it in the ground” attitude.

Our resource sector needs Canadians’ support, and more so Canadians need our resource sector.

Jonas J. Smith