Once the biggest destination for mining investments in Canada, Ontario now ranks among the least attractive provinces in the country, according to a new survey of the global mining industry.
The Fraser Institute published its yearly survey of mining companies on investment perceptions Thursday, which showed Ontario had fallen from the seventh most attractive destination worldwide to 20thplace. Canada’s most populous province also ranks ninth out of 12 jurisdictions in Canada ahead of only Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta, while Prince Edward Island was not ranked.
“In Ontario, we see a decline in investor perception, including over geology,” Fraser Institute senior policy analyst Ashley Stedman said, adding the province could improve its poor ranking with regulatory reforms and by making progress on Indigenous land claims.
The Vancouver-based think tank ranks Saskatchewan, Quebec and Yukon as the most competitive jurisdictions in Canada for mining, a ranking that Stedman says is based off miners’ perceptions of both a region’s geology and policies.
The results were based on 291 responses to a survey sent to mining companies in late 2019 that led to rankings of 83 jurisdictions around the world. The respondents ranked Nevada, Western Australia and Saskatchewan as the three most attractive destinations for mining in the world.
The largest group of respondents to the survey were presidents of mining companies, who represented 46 per cent of total respondents, followed by vice-presidents, managers, consultants and “other” respondents.
Commenting anonymously in the survey results, one mining company president said that in Ontario, “there is no clear policy/rules on consultation processes with Indigenous communities, which creates confusion and deters investment.”
The general view of Ontario is it’s losing its attractiveness
Mining Association of Canada president and CEO Pierre Gratton
Another said that ongoing delays in developing the Ring of Fire mineral deposit is hindering the province’s ability “to unlock its considerable mineral potential.”
The results of the survey are not surprising with respect to Ontario, Mining Association of Canada president and CEO Pierre Gratton said.
“This survey is a useful input but it’s not a science — it’s perception,” Gratton said, but added the perceptions of Quebec and Ontario are consistent with how his members view the two provinces.
“What makes a lot of sense to me is that Quebec is now close to the top,” he said, adding the province had overtaken Ontario in total new mine investments. Quebec was placed fourth globally, and second in Canada.
“The general view of Ontario is it’s losing its attractiveness,” Gratton said, adding that mineral exploration and new mining investments have dropped sharply as a result of high electricity prices and because “permitting is a bit of a mess.”
Gratton said it’s easier to get federal government permits for a new mine than it is to get Ontario provincial permits.
“They’ve lost it,” he said of what used to be the province’s edge in competing for mining investment, and encouraged the province’s Progressive Conservative government elected last year to correct the problem.
Ontario Energy, Northern Development and Mines Minister Greg Rickford did not respond to a request for comment on whether the province is looking to address the issues impeding mining investments in the province.