This year’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention officially began on Sunday morning, following a year that has seen the mining sector attract a new level of attention from governments, automakers, battery manufacturers and more.
During the opening ceremony, Julie Dabrusin, parliamentary secretary to the federal minister of natural resources, highlighted how the commitment of 120 countries, including Canada, to decarbonize has put the spotlight on mining.
“The transition to net zero has become the competitive race between the world’s largest economies, which is why the clean energy shift represents a generational economic opportunity for Canadian miners and explorers,” she said.
Referring to international pacts such as the Sustainable Critical Mineral Alliance established in December, Dabrusin said that Canada’s mining sector has an advantage in its environmental, social and governance expertise rooted in “Canadian values that value more than ever today.”
She also outlined what the federal government is doing to ensure that Canada is at the centre of the critical minerals sector and a global supplier of choice – including the $3.8 billion in funding in last year’s federal budget aimed at speeding up development of Canada’s critical minerals projects and expertise, and building stronger ties with Indigenous partners as well as global trading partners.
“This strategy is a direct response to the unstable supply chains that are driving costs up and destabilizing market influences. It will help meet growing demand.”
The strategy targets every part of the mining ecosystem from research and exploration to infrastructure, Indigenous capacity building, refining and processing, and manufacturing, Dabrusin said.
“It is our roadmap to make Canada a clean energy supplier of choice in a net zero world… The world needs what Canada has.”
Dabrusin also noted the many recent investments made by international companies in Canada’s critical minerals sector, including by GM, Rio Tinto, Mercedes-Benz and more, and cited the recent approvals of Generation Mining’s (TSX: GENM) Marathon palladium-copper project in Ontario and Allkem’s (TSX: AKE; ASX: AKE) James Bay lithium project in Quebec as early results of the strategy.
At the same time, Indigenous wisdom and knowledge keeper Ed Sackaney started off the session by imploring miners to learn from the industry’s past experience with Indigenous communities and “do better.”
“If you folks come into my country, my ancestral land, do it well. Engagement is very important. Include us, because we want to be a part of what you’re doing. For far too long, we’ve been ignored and we’re still living in wholistic poverty in my community.”
Sackaney cited his northern Ontario Cree community’s experience with De Beers’ Victor mine, and said that not one tradesperson in the community was trained as a result of the now-closed diamond mine’s operation.
Speaking directly to industry reps in the audience because he said the government hasn’t been listening, he said that First Nations want to improve their standard of living and asked miners to think of the young people in the community. “It has to change folks, it has to change.”
This is the first year since 2020 that the PDAC convention is being held live and in its regular March slot. With about 25,000 expected to attend, delegates whose flights into Toronto were delayed because of a major snowstorm on Friday likely preferred last year’s June timing, when about 17,000 people attended.
The PDAC convention continues at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre Mar. 5-8.