Media - 2014 Archive

Mining industry predicts more layoffs, less hiring
Published: November 12, 2014

Mining bosses in Nova Scotia expect to see more layoffs and fewer hires in the next six months, says a recent survey.

The Mining Association of Nova Scotia polled 45 industry players, including producers, prospectors and explorers and related service and supply com­panies between Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 and found:

  • 27 per cent of respondents ex­pect to lay off workers in the next six months; that’s at 17 per cent increase since a similar survey the group did in January;
  • 15.5 per cent expect to hire people, down 12 per cent since January;
  • 42 per cent expect the number of staff to remain the same.

“Many companies are feeling less optimistic now than they did at the beginning of the year," association executive director Sean Kirby said in a news release Tuesday.

Respondents pointed the finger at the state of Nova Scotia’s eco­nomy as their biggest obstacle, followed by government regula­tion.

The province increased stake ­claiming fees by 75 per cent last year and has, the industry claims, “an unnecessarily difficult regu­latory regime for prospecting and exploration."

The industry has lost about 800 jobs in the past decade but still provides 5,500 jobs, mainly in rural areas, and contributes $420 million to Nova Scotia’s economy, the group said.

The survey results were re­leased as part of Nova Scotia Mining Week from Nov. 10 to 14.

Good mining jobs merit rare expropriations
Published: July 3, 2014 - 5:26pm
Source: The Chronicle Herald
Article By: Sean Kirby

I am writing to provide some context about the recent expropriation of land for the Black Point Quarry at Fogartys Cove.

First, it is important to understand that expropriations for mines and quarries are rare and only used as a last resort. We are aware of only three expropriations for mines since 1990 and the Black Point Quarry is the only one we are aware of for a quarry project. It is always the industry’s preference to negotiate private, mutually beneficial arrangements with landowners. Offers for land are often well above market value.

Second, when expropriations are done, it is because there is no other way for a company to purchase all the land necessary to establish a new mine or quarry and create jobs and other benefits for Nova Scotians. It is simply a question of the greater good.

The Black Point Quarry is expected to create more than 150 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase, and more than 120 direct and indirect full-time jobs during peak operation. The project, located in Guysborough County, an area that has struggled with depopulation and economic challenges, is expected to last about 50 years.

The only recent example of an expropriation for a mine is DDV’s proposed Touquoy gold mine in Moose River. It will create up to 300 jobs during the construction phase, 150 ongoing direct jobs during operations and have an annual payroll of over $13 million. The mine will generate millions of dollars in tax and royalty revenues for the province.

These are good jobs we are talking about. Our industry is the highest-paying resource industry and one of the highest-paying of all industries in the province, with an average annual wage of over $50,000. We employ 5,500 Nova Scotians, mostly in rural areas, and the Ivany commission said traditional industries like mining and quarrying “will provide the essential foundations for Nova Scotia’s rural economy.”

While we all feel sympathy for the landowner in expropriations, other people also have a legitimate stake in the issue that must be considered. The two projects above will create hundreds of jobs in areas that desperately need economic opportunity. Families will be supported, people will be able to come home from out West and young Nova Scotians will be able to stay here. There is a broader community interest in ensuring these projects happen.

In the case of the Touquoy gold mine, DDV was able to purchase properties from 29 landowners, but one refused to sell. The landowner was offered $300,000 for 7.2 acres of land, a tiny portion of the several hundred acres he owns, and a price that far exceeds market value. It became necessary for DDV to seek an expropriation so hundreds of jobs could be created, many of them for other residents in the community, and so all Nova Scotians can benefit from the taxes and royalties the mine will generate.

While no one likes to see expropriations happen, — not landowners, companies or governments — they are sometimes necessary to strike a balance between the rights of individual landowners and the broader community.

Sean Kirby is executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia.

Motive fuel tax rebate will save mining firms $2.6 million a year
Published: May 18, 2014 - 8:20pm
Source: The Chronicle Herald
Article By: Michael Gorman, Provincial Reporter

The provincial government is bringing in a tax change long sought by Nova Scotia’s mining industry.

Officials for the Mining Association of Nova Scotia were recently informed that the Liberal government will phase in the motive fuel tax rebate for the industry. Officials have long lobbied for the move, arguing that the tax, which is intended to help maintain the province’s roads and highways, was being charged for mining equipment that never leaves work sites.

The forestry, fishing and farming industries already benefit from the rebate.

Sean Kirby, executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, said the change will help grow the industry.

“This is a very big deal,” Kirby said. “It will save mining and quarrying companies about $2.6 million a year that they can then reinvest into making their operations more efficient and creating jobs.”

Given the sometimes razor-thin margins facing these companies, every dollar is significant, he said.

The Liberals made the commitment during the election campaign, said Kirby. The association received a letter Tuesday from Finance Minister Diana Whalen informing it that the rebate would start to be phased in with the next provincial budget.

“I think some of the details are still to be worked out, but the commitment made is to phase it in over the final three years of the government’s mandate, starting in the 2015-16 budget,” said Kirby.

It was the industry that suggested phasing in the rebate “to balance the fiscal challenges of Nova Scotia with the removal of the fuel tax,” he said.

The Liberals are reviewing all of the province’s taxes and fees. Whalen could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Kirby said the change signals that Nova Scotia wants to be competitive and welcoming when it comes to mining. The tax worked against the province when trying to attract investment, he said.

“Nova Scotia’s reputation across the country and around the world in our industry is not very good, and so this is a huge symbolic issue for us that the government is saying it wants the investment, it wants the job creation that mining companies can bring to Nova Scotia.”

Westray Disaster Marks 22nd Anniversary
Published: May 9, 2014
Source: 94.1 East Coast FM

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of a major mining disaster. On 9 May, 1992, a methane gas explosion roared through the Westray coal mine in Plymouth, killing 26 miners. The bodies of 11 men were recovered almost immediately. A desperate but unsuccessful search for survivors continued for six days. Rescue workers said the danger of a cave-in was too great to continue. It was the worst mining disaster in Canada since 1958, when a series of collapses at a Springhill coal mine killed 75 men.

Sean Kirby, executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, says that in the years since the disaster, mine safety has improved dramatically, with the injury rate reduced by 90 percent in the past 15 years. He added mining is now one of the safer industries in the province.

Mining Association Marks Anniversary Of Westray Disaster
Published: May 9, 2014
Source: AVR 97.7 / Magic 94.9

It was on May 9, 1992 when 26 miners, 15 of whom were never recovered due to an elevated cave-in risk, were killed in a methane gas explosion at Westray Mines in the New Glasgow area. But the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, in a release marking the tragedy’s anniversary issued Thursday, claims to have learned its lesson, and highlighted safety advances such as a 90% reduction in injury rates in the mining and quarrying industry over the past 15 years. Executive Director Sean Kirby reiterated the association’s focus on safety, noting an 8.8% reduction in the injury rate in the 2012-13 period.

While a public inquiry into the disaster led to “significant changes in the way the industry is regulated and was a milestone in the establishment of a safety culture”, the association reminds us the industry still contributes 5,500 high-salary jobs within mostly rural areas of the province. It contributes $420M to Nova Scotia’s GDP annually, and adds that mining was mentioned as providing the essential foundations for Nova Scotia's rural economy" in the Ivany Report.

Remembering Westray
Published : May 9, 2014
Source: News 95.7 FM
Article by: Meghan Groff

On this day in 1992, an explosion at the Westray Mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia claimed the lives of the 26 men who were underground at the time.

It was the worst mining disaster in Canada since 1958, when a series of collapses at a Springhill coal mine killed 75 men.

Sean Kirby, executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, explained to News 957 what the day means to those who work in the occupation.

“It’s a sad day in the industry, in some ways 22-years is a long time and in some ways it’s still a very short time,” said Kirby. “It’s still an emotional day for folks in the industry.”

According to Kirby, safety in mining has improved drastically since the disaster and they’ve reduced they injury rate by 90 percent in 15 years. He added mining is now one of the safer industries in the province.

“It’s a real commitment to the fact that the most important thing to come out of the mine is the miner,” said Kirby.

The mining industry contributes 5,500 jobs in province and generates $420 million to Nova Scotia’s economy.

Higher fees worry N.S. mining group
Published: April 12, 2014
Source: The Chronicle Herald
Article by: Bruce Erskine, Business Reporter

Claim-staking fee hikes are forcing prospectors to put down their picks, says the Mining Association of Nova Scotia.

“These are the future mines,” Sean Kirby, the association’s executive director, said in an interview Friday. “These are the future jobs.”

According to a recent survey of members of the mining association and the Nova Scotia Prospectors Association, 79 per cent of prospectors and explorers expect to drop at least some of their claims within one year of the August 2013 fee hikes, before annual claim renewal fees are due.

Fifty-four per cent said they plan to drop over half their claims.

The survey also found that 87 per cent believe the fee hikes will harm their business and 88 per cent believe the hikes will harm the province’s mining industry.

The previous NDP government hiked claim staking fees, which must be renewed annually, by 75 per cent last August.

The mining and prospectors associations say the new fees are, on average, 53 per cent higher than in New Brunswick and a whopping 621 per cent higher than in Newfoundland and Labrador, where claims are renewed every five years.

The associations said a Nova Scotia prospector with 50 claims now has to pay $9,500 in fees over 10 years, up from $5,424 prior to the fee increases.

A prospector with 300 claims now has to pay $57,000 in fees over 10 years, up from $32,547.

Kirby said prospecting and exploration are vital to finding new mines and the fees are undermining that activity.

“Eight months after these huge fee increases were implemented, many prospectors are giving up their claims because they simply cannot afford to keep them,” he said.

John Wightman, executive director of the Nova Scotia Prospectors Association, said the harm being caused by the fee increase is “completely disproportional” to the small amount of revenue being generated for the government.

“The fee increase is particularly short-sighted given the millions of dollars in taxes and royalties that a single mine can generate,” he said.

“The government can afford to give up the fee hike money,” he said. “Prospectors cannot.”

The mining association said the government’s 2014-15 budget indicates total government revenue from exploration claims will be $215,000.

It estimates the fee hike will generate roughly $75,000 to $85,000 annually in additional government revenue.

Kirby said the additional revenues the government will realize from the fee hikes are tiny relative to its entire budget.

But he said the fees are significant additional costs for individual prospectors who likely won’t realize any income from their claims for years.

“They don’t have revenues at that stage of the mining cycle,” he said.

Don James, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources’ mineral resources branch, said recently there are no plans to lower provincial claim staking fees.

James said Friday that the total cost of maintaining an exploration licence or claim in Nova Scotia is similar to New Brunswick and to Newfoundland and Labrador over five and 10 years.

“That total includes various other ‘work requirements’ — added expenses — that all provincial governments require mining companies to keep their claims in good standing,” he said in a statement.

“Those added work requirement expenses paid to drilling and survey companies are part of the full cost of maintaining a claim over the years.

“Work requirement expenses are lower in Nova Scotia but (the mining association) is not factoring those expenses into their statements, so they are comparing apples to oranges.”

The mining association said Nova Scotia’s mining and quarrying industry provides 5,500 jobs and contributes $420 million to the province’s economy each year.

Mining Association says fuel tax rebates could make Nova Scotia a more attractive investment
Published: March 6, 2014
Source: News 95.7
Article by: Meghan Groff and Dan Ahlstrand

Nova Scotia has been declared as one of the least attractive provinces in Canada for mining companies to invest in, according to the Fraser Institute, and the Mining Association of Nova Scotia believes regulations and tax regimes imposed on the industry by the provincial government are the main reasons why.

Executive director Sean Kirby told News 95.7 the Ivany report highlighted the importance of mining to the province’s rural communities, but hearing negative reports is not a surprise to people in the industry.

“We’ve had some reports come out as well that show we’ve lost in our industry, 800 jobs in the last 5-years. We’re the most expensive jurisdiction in Canada to operate,” explained Kirby

He said it wouldn’t take a whole lot to turn the tide and attract new business, just level the playing field with other resource-based industries in the province, most of which receive a fuel tax rebate for vehicles that don’t use public roads.

“We’re really looking to the provincial government to show leadership on this, help turn this situation around in terms of the policy environment in which we operate,” said Kirby.

According to Kirby, the industry currently employs about 5,500 people in Nova Scotia, and mining is one of the highest paid industries in the province.

He believes by fostering investment, Nova Scotia can create many more jobs, particularly in the rural areas of the province which are facing tough times.

The survey placed neighbouring New Brunswick as one of the most attractive provinces in the country for mining investment.

Source: Chronicle Herald
Published: March 5, 2014
Article by: Sean Kirby

The Ivany commission's report highlighted that some of Nova Scotia's oldest industries are still vital to the province's future: "In future, as in the past, the traditional rural industries - tourism, manufacturing, mining, fisheries, forestry and agriculture - will provide the essential foundations for Nova Scotia's rural economy. The basic viability of many of our rural communities hinges on whether these sectors can create more and better jobs and generate more wealth."

The mining and quarrying industry is a quintessential example. On the one hand, we are a large and important industry, employing 5,500 people, mostly in rural areas. On the other hand, we face significant challenges, including:

  • The loss of approximately 800 jobs in the past five years.
  • Nova Scotia is the highest-cost jurisdiction in Canada in terms of our industry's tax/royalty burden.
  • We have an unnecessarily difficult regulatory regimen at the prospecting/exploration stage.
  • As the commission put it, "opposition impede(s) industry development."

If Nova Scotians are to overcome our economic and demographic challenges, the province needs industries like ours to grow. While an improved global economy would obviously help, we don't have any control over it, so let's focus on things we can do here at home.

First, a fairer, modernized, more sensible regulatory and policy environment is essential. Our policy concerns include being charged fuel tax even though other resource industries receive a tax rebate for fuel consumed off-highway; last year's 75 per cent hike in claim-staking fees and the overall high cost of operating here; and regulations that discourage exploration and investment. These unhelpful government policies need to be fixed as soon as possible.

Second, as the commission put it, "almost all new investment opportunities face significant criticism and at times active opposition from citizens ..." To be clear, it is legitimate for residents to have questions and concerns about proposed industrial activities in their communities, be they mines, quarries or anything else.

At the same time, the commission highlighted that we need to also have a greater willingness to support businesses that promise to create jobs while operating in a safe, sustainable, responsible fashion. Everything we want - from excellent health and education systems to opportunities for our kids to stay home instead of moving out West - ultimately depends on creating jobs. We need to strike a better balance between asking reasonable questions about a proposal while still embracing opportunities.

In our case, we face a range of outdated perceptions about our industry. No one would judge today's auto industry by its safety and environmental standards of the 1950s, yet people do sometimes judge mining by what it was like in the distant past.

The reality is today's mining and quarrying industry is a sophisticated, high-tech business that is vital to our economy and way of life. That is why we created an educational website - - that explains, in layman's terms, how the industry works today.

We need to do a better job helping our fellow Nova Scotians understand why a mine or quarry proposal in their community is good news: it will create jobs and environmental problems will be responsibly managed. After all, companies are made up of people who care as much about the environment as anyone else, and who also want to leave a better world for their children.

The bottom line is we need the jobs; we need the materials we take from the ground to support our modern society; and just as our industry has reduced its injury rate by 90 per cent in the past 15 years, we have also made tremendous strides in raising our environmental standards. This is not your grandfather's mining industry.

The commission's challenge to all of us is to work together, as industry, government and communities, to create jobs and opportunity. The viability of our province, especially rural areas, depends on it.

Mining Group Adds Support For One NS Report
Published: February 17, 2014
Article by: AVR 97.7 and Magic 94.9

The Mining Association of Nova Scotia expressed its support for the Ray Ivany-headed Commission On Building Our New Future report, released Tuesday. Sean Kirby, association Executive Director, notes the industry is one of Nova Scotia’s oldest going back almost 350 years to the first established coal mine in 1672, and today employs 5,500 people, mostly in rural areas, while contributing $420M to the provincial economy. The group’s press release cited the report where it described the industry’s difficulties due to its reliance on the recently wobbly US market, but also notes constraints due to regulatory and policy barriers as well.

It speculates the gypsum market may recover, which would be good news for the vacant mine in Hantsport, and there is even gold potential, describing Nova Scotia’s geological database as “excellent”. But it rues “limited metals potential” which it blames on “land use constraints and opposition”. It calls on the government to provide a “modern and responsive legislative framework to support and promote sustainable mineral resource management”

Recent survey shows more industry leaders in province expecting to hire
Source: Chronicle Herald
Published: February 11, 2014
Article by: Patrica Brooks Arenburg - Staff Reporter

A recent survey of Nova Scotia's mining industry bosses indicates there are brighter days ahead.

"It's still cautious at this point, but the survey shows our members are starting to feel that optimism returning and starting to think more about creating jobs and investing in the future," Sean Kirby, executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, said Monday.

The survey, conducted Jan. 6- Jan. 21, found that 27.5 per cent of the association's estimated 100 members indicated they expect to hire more people. That's up from 11 per cent in September.

Only 10 per cent said they expect to cut workers, down from 18 per cent in September. Another 51 per cent of members said they expect their workforce to remain the same over the next six months.

The mining and quarry industry currently employs about 5,500 people in Nova Scotia, mainly in rural parts of the province, producing sand, salt, limestone, gypsum and aggregate, which makes up about 75 per cent of the province's industry, Kirby said.

A study commissioned by the province showed the industry contributes about $420 million to Nova Scotia's economy each year, he said.

The industry was hit hard by the global economic recession, and the collapse of the U.S. housing market hurt gypsum, which is used to make wallboard, Kirby said.

As a result, about 800 people lost their jobs in Nova Scotia's mining industry within the past five or six years, he said.

This recent survey shows there is hope "over the next few (years), we'll be able to gain those back and then keep right on growing and hiring more Nova Scotians," Kirby said.

It's a long and complicated process between the time deposits are identified to actually opening a mine, he said, so ramping up productions at existing mines or reopening mothballed mines is the quickest way to recover at least some of those lost jobs.

"We're starting to see a bit of a rebound in gypsum," Kirby said, and it's hoped that production at the province's two remaining gypsum mines will increase over the next year or two.

Adding a little sparkle to the industry is the return of gold mining operations to the province.

"It's exciting to finally, after about a dozen years, have gold mining operations return to Nova Scotia because we haven't had one since Dufferin last operated in 2001," Kirby said.

The Dufferin gold mine in Port Dufferin is in the process of hiring about 70 people and is expected to get into full production in the next few months, he said.

More jobs are coming with the Touquoy mine in Moose River, which is expected to hire 300 people during the construction phase and 150 during regular operations.

The mine is expected to start production in 2015 and have a payroll of more than $13 million, the association says.