Canada has been well represented at the 10th International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) held in Sydney this week amid a spate of Australian mining investments into the country.
Invest in Canada – the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) attraction and promotion agency – has been exhibiting all week at the conference in the clearest sign of Canada’s emerging prominence and attractiveness to Australian miners and mining services firms.
The agency works with partners across the country and worldwide to attract global companies and support their expansion plans in Canada.
On day two at IMARC, of which Mining.com.au is an official media partner, an Invest in Canada session was held titled ‘A Land of Opportunities for Exploration, Mining, and METS Companies’. METS is the acronym for Mining Equipment, Technology, and Services.
The session focused on the advantages of operating and investing in Canada and included a panel session focused on mid-stream processing.
As reported by this news service in June 2023, there is burgeoning trend of ASX-listed junior mining companies finding not just resources but also comfort operating abroad in the wider North American market.
Australia and Canada are somewhat comparable – the north of both countries is rich in resources yet have underdeveloped infrastructure. They are sparsely populated where large proportions of inhabitants are indigenous. And both are large areas with similar geopolitical environments and rich with minerals and resources.
IMARC in Sydney has been an ideal platform in which both regions were able to spruik their mining and investment credentials in equal measure.
Addressing the conference, Australian Minister for Resources Madeleine King reiterated Australia’s mining and mining services credentials, noting the resources sector underpins the country’s prosperity. King highlighted that the abundance of battery metals and critical minerals also position Australia for global leadership in the clean energy transition.
Australia can lead the world as it transitions to a clean energy future by producing the critical minerals required, while not sacrificing its existing competitive advantage as a traditional mining powerhouse, she added.
“Australia’s resources industry is a powerhouse of the economy. Mining underpins our standard of living, providing 75% of Australian exports and almost 15% of GDP“
“Australia’s resources industry is a powerhouse of the economy. Mining underpins our standard of living, providing 75% of Australian exports and almost 15% of GDP. Australia’s resources export earnings reaped a record $460 billion in the recent financial year. Taxes from our resources industry build roads and hospitals. Iron ore, gas and coal pay for our schools and defence forces.”
According to Invest in Canada, in 2018 the minerals sector directly contributed C$72.4 billion towards the country’s GDP. That same year the total value of the country’s minerals production was C$47 billion, slightly more than the C$44 billion production generated in 2020.
King added that impressively, 30 of the top 100 METS companies globally are based in Australia. The country, she said, is at the forefront of the sector’s most important developments, including remote operating vehicles, horizontal drilling, robotics and automation, airborne exploration technologies and mineral flotation.
She noted Australia is the world’s largest leading producer of unprocessed lithium and produced most of the world’s hard rock lithium, with exports forecast to reach $16 billion this year. It is the world’s third largest cobalt exporter and the world’s fourth largest exporter of rare earths, and ranked 7th in the world for economic resources of natural graphite.
Comparatively, as per an Invest in Canada fact sheet, Canada has been ranked first in the Global Cleantech Innovation Index in the G20 and fourth globally, with strong scores for emerging clean technology in 2017. As of 2021 it was the number one potash producing country globally, and in 2019 the country was ranked third globally for rough diamond production in both value and volume.
Once in a 100-year opportunity
However, IMARC was this week told that Australia has a ‘once in 100-year’ opportunity to play a key role in providing minerals to support the global energy transition – a prospect not without its challenges.
The hurdles facing the Australian mining industry over the past few years, much like Canada, have not been insignificant. They range from geopolitical disruptions to supply chain constraints and in Australia in particular, as well as unprecedented weather events affecting production across the country.
Against this backdrop, Chief Executive Officer of Austmine Christine Gibbs Stewart says with technology advancing as rapidly as it is, it’s difficult to know what skills the industry will require for the future.
“If we all get out there and talk about how technologically advanced we are, I think we’ll attract more skills and people to our workforce“
“However, one of the ways we can focus on attracting the relevant skills we need is by telling our industry’s story better in terms of how innovative we are. If we all get out there and talk about how technologically advanced we are, I think we’ll attract more skills and people to our workforce.
Just look at what’s happening in society in general, whether that be asset management, managing the workforce, safety, automation, robotics, digital data, and analytics; the mining industry is really at the forefront of technology, and we should be promoting that.”
CEO of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Stephen Durkin said at IMARC building workforce capacity and capability must be urgently addressed before it becomes a serious issue for the sector.
“With 20% of our industry – well over 100,000 people – being tertiary qualified professionals, we are dependent on this workforce to do the work in front of us and shape the future of our industry.”
Canada has been on the front foot when addressing labour issues and skills shortages.
Canada’s Global Skills Strategy has been designed to make it easier for businesses to attract the talent need to succeed in the global marketplace. Eligible foreign workers with employer-approved applications can move swiftly through the immigration system and received work permits within several weeks.
An Invest in Canada flyer notes that 92% of the work permit applications received through the Global Skills Strategy program – reflecting about 51,220 people coming to Canada – were approved in the 2-year period from 12 June to 31 July 2019.
Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au
Images: Invest in Canada & Supplied