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2013 Communities of Opportunity: Marathon

Halfway between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie , the Town of Marathon is preparing for a mining boom.

Halfway between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, the Town of Marathon is preparing for a mining boom.

With Stillwater Mining's future platinum group metals open-pit mine project undergoing an environmental review, the municipality is preparing for a construction workforce of 400 to 600 in late 2014 and early 2015, followed by a permanent workforce of 365 to 400 when the pit is operational in 2015.

“We are hopeful they'll get their environmental assessment soon,” said Bob Hancherow, economic development officer for the community of 3,350. “Marathon will maximize and capitalize on the benefits and opportunities that are going to come with that.”

At the former Marathon Pulp mill, Illinois-based Green Investment Group Inc. received environment ministry approval to finalize its acquisition of the 13-acre site from Tembec.

The company has cleanup plans toward creating industrial space for future tenants.

Among the local junior miners in the area is Entourage Metals, which is doing very well, according to Hancherow.

“There are some very favourable opportunities here,” he said. “They're all quite busy.”

While mining will play a large part in the community's future, it isn't the only viable option for its economic development.

Various projects and opportunities related to tourism, energy, forestry and biomass are all being evaluated; the latter involving a recent biomass workshop entertaining visitors from Finland.

The best forestry opportunity lies with the establishment of the provincially-created and regionally-run Local Forest Management Corporation.

On the educational front, a Marathon adjustment committee has been set up. The town, Confederation College and Barrick Gold are involved in discussions of an applied training centre in town.

“We recognize that there will be a shortage of skilled labour,” said Hancherow. “That's not just for mining either. Forestry is on the rebound, and with that will come more shortages.”