Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to make these comments today.
By way of background, I have personally worked in the minerals industry both in Canada and internationally for nearly 47 years now, since my very first job exploring for copper and gold in northern British Columbia in 1970. Along the way, I have founded 14 Canadian mineral resource companies and one clean energy company. Four of these companies exist today, all public companies on the TSX, and 10 have been sold off to larger resource companies.
My career has taken me across Canada and around the world. I've worked in over 50 countries and have current projects in 18 countries. For example, one of my companies, Pan American Silver, which I founded in 1994, is now the world's second largest primary silver mining company, with 7,000 workers employed at seven operations in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Our head office is in Vancouver.
For some context in discussing government involvement in our business, here are a few things. I guess it's kind of motherhood, but I thought I'd start with reminding us all about those.
The first is that mining is a cyclical industry. It is governed by global turns in business cycles. There is nothing government can do about that, but companies know this. Well-managed companies know that cycles exist and plan accordingly. Poorly managed companies don't, so when markets turn and they get into trouble, governments should be loath to step in. Markets do this well.
Second, mining companies are price-takers. Revenues are set by world markets and global demand. Government policies typically cannot improve gross revenues, but they can hurt gross revenues when, for example, applying taxes like royalties that are revenue-based. These kinds of taxes are regressive and decrease production and mine life. Everybody loses.
Third, mining companies can typically do little about costs as well. Mining costs are largely set by the unique nature of every mineral deposit: its grade, tonnage, location—deep or shallow, for example—geometry, and complexity. It's true that a great management team can make a mine more profitable than a bad team can. It's also true that enlightened fiscal and regulatory conditions in one jurisdiction can make a mineral deposit profitable, while less attractive conditions in another jurisdiction will make the identical deposit unprofitable.
Canada has world-class mining and exploration industries. These are different businesses. Exploration, although it's part of mining, is quite different from mining. They are run differently, by different people with different kinds of agendas, typically.
Both of these industries, though, are thriving, and Canadians should be really proud of what we have today. In both of these industries, we are world leaders. Canada and Canadian companies have an outstanding reputation globally for best-practice environmental standards, technology, health and safety programs, corporate social responsibility practices, and honest dealings.
Mining is one of Canada's centres of excellence. This expertise includes mature and deep capital markets that supply risk capital to Canadian companies, healthy and well-regulated public markets, engineering and technology leadership to world projects, strong accounting and legal support teams across Canada, and, increasingly, expertise in corporate social responsibility programs. We are good at this because we have had great government support to all these programs for many decades, and because government has largely let the mineral resource industry look after itself within societal norms, which of course change over time.
I am not a big fan of government trying to do things that aren't needed. Our industry is not broken, and it does not need fixing. We don't need the endless bureaucracy and obstacles to fix non-problems. For example, a few years ago there was a ridiculous debate here in Ottawa about Canadian mining companies working overseas doing allegedly unethical activities. I know what's going on internationally. I have been doing that most of my career. The problem was minuscule—high-profile, but minuscule in actuality—but the proposed solution in that bill would have created all kinds of wasteful and unnecessary procedures that simply would have hurt the good players, which most companies are, while doing very little to solve the problem. I'm very glad it was defeated, and I hope that kind of ignorant action doesn't resurface any time soon.
Having said that, there are some areas the government can help with, and one of them is education and training. Obviously, Canadian industry benefits from a well-trained workforce, and this needs to be given constant attention. Great graduates create great companies.
Government support for new technology and innovation should continue; it's critical to helping our industry survive the future. Weirdly, the mining industry in Canada has not innovated nearly as thoroughly as many other industries have. Exploration and mining technology is little changed from that of about 50 years ago, even 100 years ago, other than in certain areas like heap leaching, for example. But future mines will be deeper and lower grade and therefore higher cost, unless we are able to reduce costs through innovation. For example, remote mining methods, robotics, more digital technology, better waste management, and more efficient energy sources and uses are needed.
Now I'll say a few words about first nations, and generally speaking, gender and ethnic diversity in our industry. This is motherhood, but I think it is important for you to understand my perspective on this.
The problem in our first nations communities in Canada is profound, but I think the mining industry is helping to improve things in this area. Every single mine in Canada, and many exploration projects, active or proposed, has a program to involve local first nations communities. This doesn't need to be forced on industry by government; it's happening because it's good business. Government should focus on helping with basic education and health initiatives, and not get involved in creating the specific programs that burden the minerals industry with unnecessary regulations.
The same can be said for gender diversity and ethnic inclusion. It's true that mining has been a male domain for many decades, but things are changing quickly today. You will see a very different mix of gender and ethnic diversity in just a few years as young women and people of different ethnic origins enter the mining workforce in Canada from universities, where they are so well represented.
Regarding the environment, environmental protection is an area that obviously does require strong government oversight. Waste management, land use, protection of biodiversity, reclamation practices, and energy use are all important areas where government review is essential. It cannot be left to mining companies. Tailings dams in particular are the Achilles heel of the mining industry and need strong government involvement to ensure proper design, proper operation, and proper decommissioning. In the rare event that tailings dams fail, it creates Herculean problems for absolutely everybody. We have to be more and more attentive to this; we cannot afford a single.... For me it's like an airplane crash: it's such a disaster, and it's typically something that can be prevented. This is one area where I encourage more government scrutiny.
Another area is sustainability. Sustainable mining, of course, is an oxymoron. Mining is non-renewable; sustainability implies something permanent. But mines can create more sustainable communities in creating safe and clean working practices, maintaining as healthy a natural environment as possible, and partnering successfully with employees, contractors, communities, and governments. Properly done, these will create a stronger educational, economic, social, and natural environment that will persist long after mining ceases.
This needs plenty of government support, especially in ensuring mine reclamation is properly bonded and executed. For example, I see worrisome reclamation practices in the oil sands, which is fundamentally Canada's largest mining operation. I fear that a big mess will be left there if oil companies are unable financially to reclaim the vast areas impacted by mining. We can do better there, but you cannot rely on companies to do it without big involvement from government.
There are some areas of special concern to me. One is water extraction, use, and recycling. Another is attention to loss of biodiversity at mine sites. Applying an economic value to natural capital in assessing the impact of mining will help quantify the loss of natural lands and the mitigation needs.
With liquid, gas, and solid-waste management, a stronger focus is needed on creating less waste and ensuring zero discharge.
For energy use and intensity, the use of renewable energy needs to be a priority where possible, especially when alternative energy sources are fossil fuel based. To support this, a cost must be applied to mine emissions that harm society at large, and the best example is carbon pollution. Carbon pricing is the best and most transparent way of applying a price on pollution and encouraging innovation to reduce emissions.
To conclude, I support government action in maintaining the building blocks that have made our industry strong and that will keep Canada's minerals industry strong well into the future. Our world-class education facilities, capital markets, fiscal policies, and environmental health and safety policies will ensure we remain world leaders in this business sector. We're world leaders respected not just for our technical expertise and market strength, but also because we're doing the right thing for humanity and for the myriad creatures on earth that give us fresh water and clean air. If we do that, we can build a sustainable industry and a greater country.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It's my pleasure to appear here this morning on behalf of Cameco Corporation. My name is Dale Austin. I am Cameco's manager of government relations.
In my remarks this morning, I'd like to provide a brief overview of, first, Cameco and our operations; second, our successful and long-standing relationship with the indigenous and northern Saskatchewan partner communities that support our operations; and finally, the role of innovation and trade in the success of our business.
Headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Cameco is one of the world's largest producers of uranium for nuclear energy, accounting for roughly 18% of total global production. The vast majority of that production comes from our extensive mining and milling operations in northern Saskatchewan. We also maintain production sites in the United States and Kazakhstan. In addition, we own uranium refining, conversion, and fuel fabrication facilities in Blind River, Port Hope, and Cobourg, Ontario. We are the sole provider of these conversion facilities for Canadian CANDU reactors.
Through these activities, Cameco employs a total Canadian workforce of about 4,000 direct employees and long-term contractors, a significant number of whom are indigenous residents of northern Saskatchewan. I'll expand on that a little more in a moment.
Cameco's vision is to energize the world as a global leader of fuel supply for clean air nuclear power. Our mission is to bring the multiple benefits of nuclear energy to the world. We play a big part in the energy equations of many countries, including here in North America, where Cameco uranium powers roughly one in every 10 homes in Canada and one in every 19 homes in the United States.
Now that you know a little bit more about Cameco, I'd like to spend a few minutes discussing our indigenous partnerships and the role they play in the success of our company.
Indigenous engagement and employment have been a priority for Cameco since our company was formed in 1988. Our success depends on the long-term, positive partnerships we have built with first nations and Métis communities where we operate, particularly in northern Saskatchewan. We are proud to be Canada's largest industrial employer of indigenous people, with nearly one-third of our total Canadian workforce being composed of individuals of first nations or Métis heritage.
Cameco's indigenous partnerships are a leading example of how the private sector can engage directly with local stakeholders to ensure that a company's success and a community's success are intertwined.
These partnerships have led to over 70% of all of the goods and services we use at our operations in northern Saskatchewan being procured from northern or aboriginal-owned businesses, totalling more than $3 billion over the past decade.
Resource development is often cited as the best way to improve the socio-economic situation for indigenous Canadians, yet project approvals are becoming more difficult to obtain. New projects in Canada's north, where they have the support of local communities and can tap into the expertise of indigenous Canadians, in our view are the most direct way to long-term improvements. Cameco supports further investments, both public and private, in Canada's north that will increase opportunities for indigenous Canadians to live in their home communities and access educational and economic opportunities.
Moving on to a new topic, if committee members are looking for suggestions as to what government and industry can do today to create a strong foundation for future growth, then Cameco would recommend infrastructure investments in remote northern communities, rational regulatory processes that facilitate development, and finally, trade promotion in emerging markets.
As I stated, the majority of Cameco's mining and milling operations are situated in northern Saskatchewan. Because of the remote location of these facilities and the general lack of supporting infrastructure—transportation, aviation, electricity, telephony, broadband—our cost of doing business is considerably higher than that of our competitors, putting Cameco at a disadvantage. This situation is similar for other companies operating at remote sites.
Improved infrastructure would increase the global competitiveness of our industry and open opportunities for development in the north, resulting in significant economic and social benefits for all Canadians.
Canada's resource wealth has long been a major driver of the country's financial health, socio-economic well-being, and job creation efforts. Canada's present fiscal challenges serve as a reminder of the important impact on Canadians when the natural resource sector is not firing on all cylinders.
The current depressed state of the uranium market mirrors the situation for most other commodities. The spot price of uranium today has sunk to roughly $25 a pound, about half of what it was five years ago. While the uranium industry does not garner as much attention as the oil and gas sector, the impact of lower prices for a longer period of time similarly results in reduced employment, investment, and exploration.
Canadians must also have confidence that economic factors do not trump environmental or social considerations when it comes to development. With a foot in both the mining sector and the nuclear energy sector, Cameco operates under an extremely robust and thorough regulatory regime that is based on scientific evidence. We welcome this high degree of regulatory oversight, since it helps to assure the communities where we operate that our operations are both safe and responsible.
Canada's economic prosperity is, to a significant extent, linked to our ability to responsibly and sustainably develop and export our abundant natural resources and value-added products. Canada's regulatory and environmental assessment processes should ensure that resource projects proceed safely and with minimal impact on the environment, rather than being used as an instrument to delay or cancel projects.
Canada's uranium mining industry, and the nuclear industry as a whole, is positioned to be a world leader for decades to come in both domestic and international markets.
In recent years, Cameco has finalized sizable uranium supply agreements with two Chinese utilities and our first ever sales contract with India. Commercial trade with China and India, as with many developing countries, is considerably different from what it is with Canada's traditional export markets, like the United States and western Europe. Government-to-government relationships are incredibly important to getting business done in these countries.
A targeted strategy focused on Canada's nuclear industry to promote nuclear trade and investment with developing nations, particularly China and India, given their ambitious plans to build new reactors and meet their growing electricity demand, would be extremely beneficial.
Even though this portion of the committee's work is focused on the mining sector, I would be remiss if I did not spend a couple of minutes discussing the nuclear sector as well.
As a company that mines uranium, we have our feet firmly planted in the mining, energy, and nuclear sectors. Canada's nuclear sector remains a global leader in uranium production, technological innovation, and electricity generation. Nuclear energy has a significant role to play in addressing global climate change. Current use of nuclear energy worldwide helps the planet avoid some 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, if the same amount of electricity were produced using fossil fuels.
In Canada, roughly 60% of Ontario's electricity mix comes from nuclear power, enabling the province to become the first jurisdiction in North America to successfully phase out coal-fired power, using strictly Canadian reactor technology.
This is a major contribution to global greenhouse gas reduction efforts, of which our company is extremely proud, facilitating the generation of clean, carbon-free baseload electricity that in most instances would otherwise be produced using greenhouse gas-emitting sources.
Cameco's leadership position in this industry is even more noteworthy, considering the bulk of our competitors are either state-owned enterprises or backstopped by the public treasury, or are multinational mining conglomerates for which uranium comprises only a small fraction of their balance sheets.
As the committee considers input to its report on the future of Canada's oil and gas, mining and nuclear sectors, we would ask that it continue to recognize the contribution that nuclear energy and all products along the nuclear value chain make toward our goal of cleaner air and a low-carbon economy.
Thank you for listening. I look forward to your questions.
Thanks to both of the witnesses for taking the time to be here and for the presentations.
We heard earlier in the committee that Saskatchewan is the best place in Canada in which to invest in mining and mining development, so I'll focus my questions with you, Mr. Austin, since your operations are headquartered and primarily in Saskatchewan.
I would like to get a little more into this issue around certainty in the regulatory process. You've articulated and echoed commentary from other representatives about how important it is for capital planning, and I have noted your comments about the need for a rational regulatory process that facilitates development. I also note that, in your view, the regulatory system in Canada is the best in the world and is robust, thorough, and based on scientific evidence.
I know my colleagues believe that these processes shouldn't be used as an instrument to delay or to cancel projects. I think that, as members of this committee, we're all seeking ways that government can either streamline or improve fiscal and regulatory policies to help facilitate development because of the prosperity and the jobs that responsible natural resources provide.
The Liberal government does continue to talk about launching a review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. That was said as recently as Tuesday by the in the House of Commons. I wonder if you've heard anything about that or if your association has heard anything about that. The comments that we've heard publicly are that the public consultations of the review process were supposed to start in September, and the new process is supposed to be in place by January. I don't know if you or the association to which you belong have heard anything about that from the government or have been in consultations on that review.
I wonder if you might talk about the repercussions if, in your view, there are any, on the signals that there are impending changes, and what government really should be doing to instill confidence in the investment environment to signal to investors that Canada is open for business.
With respect to the environmental assessment review, Cameco is part of the Canadian Nuclear Association as well as the Mining Association of Canada. We have direct representation on the multi-interest advisory committee, which is providing advice to the expert panel on the EA review, so we have been directly engaged in that process.
The timelines are extremely tight; there's no doubt about that. But we have been engaged at the multi-interest advisory committee table, and with the expert panel as it goes across the country hearing from witnesses. We made presentations in Saskatoon, I believe, last week, and some of our indigenous community leaders were involved in that process. The process is certainly under way.
I will echo what I said earlier in that we would support any changes to the EA process that focus on the use of scientific evidence for decision-making and certainty in terms of process, timing, and the type of research that is required to make decisions.
In terms of what we can do to ensure investment certainty, as Mr. Beaty said, there are certain things governments can do and certain things they cannot do. Investor certainty is something we need to do as a company.
Our Millennium mine in northern Saskatchewan is an example. Using the evidence that was available at the time, it was determined that there were no environmental impact issues where our Millennium mine site would be. Environment Canada decided that there could, in fact, be issues down the road based on research that may be conducted in the future. As a result of that idea that there could be environmental impacts in the future, they were not prepared to give us a no adverse impacts ruling that would allow our mine to proceed.
What Environment Canada told us was that we could go ahead and build our Millennium mine, but they reserved the right to come back years down the road, looking at future evidence, and potentially impose operating conditions on our mine site. Not surprisingly, given our responsibility to shareholders and our capital investments, those were not conditions under which we could build a mine. The idea that we would build it, and then at some future date there would be conditions imposed on how we might operate that mine, made it extremely challenging.
As a result of that uncertainty, that $2-billion mine project in northern Saskatchewan that would have employed somewhere in the neighbourhood of 300 people, along with opportunities for other indigenous business, did not go ahead. And you know how capital investment works. It's not as if we're holding on to that money and waiting for the right time. That capital was deployed elsewhere in our operations around the world.
It is that type of uncertainty we're trying to deal with. The scientific evidence was there. I won't say it was ignored, but there were other options that were considered that made the decision one where we could not proceed.
The trade-off for government and the trade-off for everybody is how to balance regulation with business. How do you make an environmental regulation functional, so that it doesn't waste time and it doesn't waste money, with the relevant things and unimportant things, and it really focuses on the stuff that's important? As I said, style of management is really important. That has to be super-stressed. As we go into the future, things that are invisible but are very threatening to human existence, such as carbon pollution, loss of biodiversity, are things that we have to think of more and more and build into the environmental regulations, because they're critical for human existence; they're existential threats.
Looking after water management is increasingly important. I think Canada has recognized it's an area that we have to look after. Applying some infrastructure spending to things that can help with this, and can help the mining industry plus communities along the way are good things to work on. It's a question of how you get the mix right, how you really look after the environment. As I said, you can't rely on companies by themselves to do it. They just cannot do it. As well meaning as companies are, there's simply too much tendency to drive to the lowest-cost solution. That's not always the right solution.
I think Dale's comment that we can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, we can't have too big an infrastructure of environmental regulation is true, but we also have to get it right. I know the federal government is working hard to do that. I have faith in the system. It has worked in Canada. We just have to be vigilant that we don't make the rules too tough, complicated, or in the wrong direction to hurt the industry where it doesn't need to be hurt.
On reclamation management, I think we can beef that up, particularly in some areas which have a really big impact. I'm concerned, for example, at the end of a mine life.... What happens typically is that a mine comes to an end, either because the reserves are depleted or economic conditions change. When economic conditions change, when there's a downturn, companies close mines when they can least afford it. Often they have, in many cases in Canadian history, gone bankrupt without having the capacity to reclaim the operations.
Government management, environmental rules that require reclamation as the mine goes, or bonding properly to avoid the problem with bankruptcy are ways.... It's kind of like the Canada pension plan. These are ways that you can deal now with the problem that you know is going to come at you sometime in the future. Perhaps we need to change the way we currently think of reclamation management.
On behalf of Northern Graphite, its shareholders and many stakeholders, including the County of Renfrew and the Algonquins of Ontario, I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to make a presentation today.
We are in an unprecedented period of low interest rates and low oil prices, yet worldwide there is little economic growth. Populations are aging, and birth rates are declining. Japan has had 20-plus years and counting of economic stagnation. Is this the new normal for the western world? It's an extremely important question for governments which almost universally have budget deficits that are adding to already high debt levels. Most forecast that growth is going to skate them onside. Where is this growth going to come from?
I would make the case that the scarce resource worldwide is, in fact, jobs and economic growth, and they have to come first. We all know that wealth must be created before it can be distributed. With it, many things are possible, but it must be achieved within an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner. Mega projects, such as pipelines, LNG plants, and the oil sands, get most of the attention, but there are thousands of smaller projects whose collective benefit can be just as significant. Today I want to share some of our experiences and make some constructive suggestions from the perspective of a smaller project.
By way of background, Northern Graphite owns the Bissett Creek graphite deposit, which is located about 250 kilometres west of here, between the towns of Deep River and Mattawa, and about 15 kilometres from the Trans-Canada Highway. Most of you will know graphite as the lead in your pencil, but for many years, its main uses have been in the steel industry and other industrial applications. However, graphite's profile is steadily climbing, because it is a key component in lithium ion batteries and thus the electric vehicle and grid storage markets. It is also a key component in fuel cells, flow batteries, and consumer electronics.
Seventy-five per cent of the world's graphite comes from China, and there are many concerns over environmental practices and resource nationalism. Because of its criticality and security of supply issues, both the United States and the EU have declared graphite a supply critical mineral. So in a few short years, graphite has morphed from being a boring industrial mineral into one that is critical for the green-tech industries.
The lithium ion battery industry, in particular, is already $20 billion in size and growing at over 20% per year. What other industries are doing that in this economic climate? This growth is mainly cellphones, laptops, power tools, etc. Electric vehicles, grid storage, and the replacement of lead starter batteries are far larger markets that are still in their infancy. Substantial new graphite supplies are required, even under the most conservative forecasts, for these markets.
As you can imagine, there are a number of potential new graphite projects competing to supply the western world with this critical raw material. We believe Bissett Creek is the best of these new projects, but that does not necessarily mean it is the one that is going to get built. A new mine requires the support and co-operation of local communities, first nations, provincial and federal governments, and favourable financial and commodity markets. If Canada is to get a share of this exciting growth market, we all need to be on the same team.
Northern Graphite has invested over $20 million in the Bissett Creek project and completed all the required drilling and engineering studies. We have our main environmental approval from the Province of Ontario. This process included extensive first nations and community consultations. We have encountered zero opposition to the project. Construction could start in 2017, subject to financing.
Bissett Creek is about as environmentally benign as a mining project can get. There is nothing hazardous about graphite. We don't use dangerous chemicals, and 97% of the tailings are basically sand. The mine will cost approximately $100 million to build. It will employ about 100 people directly, and there will be another couple hundred jobs in the services and related industries. It will pay approximately $180 million in income taxes to the government over its life, which excludes GST and taxes paid by employees and suppliers.
Northern has also developed two proprietary technologies to manufacture the anode material for lithium ion batteries from the mine concentrates. Much of this is currently done in China because of lax environmental regulations. So you essentially have green batteries, green cars with dirty batteries.
The west not only needs new supplies of graphite, but it also needs alternative technologies to turn the graphite into high-tech products. Testing to date indicates that Northern's technologies are environmentally sustainable and cost competitive. The next step is a pilot plant test to demonstrate them on a more commercial scale, which is about a $2.5-million exercise.
In summary, Bissett Creek does not raise any environmental red flags. There is no opposition. It will create jobs and generate tax revenues producing a mineral critical to the growing green-tech markets. We have developed proprietary technologies to try to bring the value-added processing here to Canada. This should be an easy project, and Northern Graphite is a very good case study with respect to a company negotiating its way through the approval process and trying to get support from various governmental agencies and departments. Unfortunately, our experience in this regard has not been very positive.
I would like to expand on two areas in particular. One is the ability of government agencies and departments to deliver what is being promised at the top, and the second is a lack of financial programs to augment what the private sector can do in terms of financing both the resource and the related technologies.
We experienced a very large disconnect between stated policies and what was being delivered in the field. I cannot emphasize this point enough because it is what we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It is what leads to additional costs, expenses, and delays. So if policies and legislation result from the work of committees such as this, it is absolutely critical to develop an action plan that includes a real effort to communicate their intent to the various departments and people in the field and to get their buy-in. Most have been in their departments for years, and they have seen governments and policies come and go.
Bissett Creek is an opportunity to create jobs and generate tax revenues, and it is very disappointing to continually encounter a “prove you are worthy to do this” attitude. Yes, we are trying to make money for our shareholders, but that effort is what starts the whole wealth creation and distribution process. A spirit of co-operation to get the best result for all is needed. This is not a question of legislation but of implementation. There are many situations that are not black and white, and subjective decisions are required. Too often we were forced to take the most complicated, time-consuming, and expensive route for no reasons that were explained to us. We are not trying to take shortcuts. We are not asking for special favours. We simply want a realistic, supportive, and common-sense application of the regulations.
Here are a few examples to give you a flavour of what we experienced. Our property boundaries all follow lot, concession, and township lines, and we have no neighbours. We were ordered to re-survey all of these government-established boundaries in order to get a mining permit. Our project qualifies for a class B level review in Ontario. We were told to do a much more extensive and expensive class C review for no reasons that were explained to us. Urban encroachment on wetlands is an important issue in developed areas, but it's not applicable in the Canadian Shield where we are. We were ordered to do a wetlands management plan even though there is no requirement for one, and all related issues are dealt with through other legislation.
Of all the numerous pronouncements about one window, one lead agency, and defined timelines, none of that happened.
We are continually asked to consult with first nations on routine issues. I am fully supportive of the requirement for consultation, but boundaries and limits are required. Jobs, business opportunities, and effects on traditional lands all require consultation, but the colour of the office door does not. We don't need to create a first nations shadow bureaucracy that vets and approves everything the regular one does. It places a huge burden on first nation organizations who, in many cases, do not have the expertise or the resources to respond, and it creates a very slow, expensive, and inefficient process.
The same problem crops up with environmental legislation. I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about species at risk legislation in Ontario, but will simply say it is a good example of how not to go about this process. There was no industry consultation, no first nations consultation. It is based on weak and incomplete science and is costing governments and industries billions of dollars and countless jobs.
You might be interested in reading “Improving the Endangered Species Act—Impacts on Renfrew County”, a copy of which I have provided to the clerk.
Yes. For most of this year I've been visiting with various ministries, various departments, and various agencies, both at the provincial and the federal levels, to determine what kind of support there is for a project such as this. As I said, I kind of thought we would be in the sweet spot, if you will, with a project that's producing a mineral that's critical to the green-tech industries and the value-added technologies, and I really have gotten nowhere.
Most departments and agencies that we've talked to tend to have a fairly narrow mandate and basically say, “It sounds very interesting, but we don't have any programs to help you. Try such-and-such a department.” You go around and end up back where you started, and nothing happens.
In our case, we made one application for a grant—that was all we found—and that application was declined, the main reason being that there was no environmental benefit to Canada, which is true, because all of the manufacturing of battery anode material takes place in China. There's a large net benefit to the world by using our technology, but no net benefit to Canada because we don't manufacture the stuff now. In our particular case, we were not able to identify any potential sources of financial assistance.
In terms of what we could do, I think the province of Quebec has an extremely good model. There are many organizations in Quebec, from the Caisse de dépôt down. Part of their mandate is to invest in Quebec, job creation in Quebec, and venture capital in Quebec. The Caisse de dépôt, Ressources Québec, FTQ, and Sodémex are some of the many organizations that invest directly in resource and technology companies, and they often show up investing in junior companies like Northern Graphite.
The Caisse de dépôt is not gambling pensioners' money on junior resource stocks. It is making what it thinks is a good investment, along with private industry, and it's creating jobs and economic development in the province of Quebec. I can compare Quebec and Ontario, because many of our shareholders have remarked that the biggest problem with the Bissett Creek project is that it's 20 kilometres too far to the west. It's on the wrong side of the river.
I think those types of programs, professionally managed funds.... We don't need to build a big infrastructure within government to do it, but a professionally managed resource fund that invested directly in Canadian projects, partly to earn a financial return but also to create jobs and increase their competitiveness worldwide, I think would be a fabulous idea. Other countries have it and, in fact, they're investing in Canada, so we should have one of our own.