By Mike Shusterman
Have you ever considered the absurd notion of our rocks switching places with our trees, specifically with regards to our rocks coming under the same profile and proposed changes as our trees in Ontario?
Maybe it’s just me, but I always try to rationalize one situation with another. An example of this thinking: I always try to come to terms with the fact that we are a large landmass in Northern Ontario with an abundance of rocks, trees and water, with 90 per cent on non-private lands. These are our natural resources and they are owned by us, the public of Ontario, and our First Nation neighbours. It is us, and we are defined by these resources. These resources are what our small communities depend upon for their prosperity.
The trees specifically are once again facing yet another change in management.
The province is attempting to appease both the United States, the environmentalists, southern Ontario, large mostly foreign-owned forest companies, and lastly us Northerners, not last in this list by mistake. These changes are a BIG change.
The province has taken the bold and welcome step of trying to change the tree landscape by providing more fibre to new ventures. At the same time, it is also trying to achieve a new management approach.
What if the roles were reversed? What if the rocks in Northern Ontario were put under this same microscope? Let’s begin with tenure. Would the mining community cope with the determination of who manages our rocks, the same situation our trees are currently involved with? What would be the result of this very long consultation? Would the mining of new mineral finds be held up while waiting for the results of the consultation?
Would mining companies be interested in pursuing potential mines if they didn’t know what they would have to pay for these rocks? What if they weren’t guaranteed that they could access all of the rocks that they desire?
Would mining companies put up with a new board of community experts determining access to these rocks, potentially controlled by the usual list of retired former municipal politicians? Would the price they have to pay to acquire these rocks be determined by this same group, or would a Rock Board be established to dictate pricing? What about the stumpage payment that would be required for these rocks?
Would a new mining company still proceed with the mine?
The other recent event facing our trees is the new fibre competition (Wood Supply Competitive Process, son of RFEI) for access to fibre volumes, with some of these volumes originating from fibre previously withheld from harvest by the larger companies. I cannot fathom what it would be like if the mining companies were subjected to this same scenario.
Many new fibre-based ventures are patiently waiting word on their requests for this fibre; meanwhile, these ventures that will employ a lot of Northerners cannot start until they are granted this fibre.
Would the mining companies put up with this constant delay, now up to two years?
I cannot imagine the outcome if the Ring of Fire potential is placed under the same scrutiny as the tree resource. Can you see this great potential chromite resource going through the countless restrictions that the tree resource must face? If one would start removing land base for the various water and animal species restrictions, Areas of Concern, seasonal restrictions and so on, there would be nothing left to mine.
After learning about the recent Forest Products Association of Canada’s cashing- in to the environmentalists by agreeing to the removal of even more of the Boreal Forest, I wonder how mining companies would feel if they were told that after all the access they have already given away over the years, a whole new Boreal Rock or portions of the Canadian Shield will now be off-limits to mining.
I see what the effects of these future fibre-based changes can do for our Northern communities, but I also see what could be accomplished if we considered our tree resource as we do the mineral resource. Let’s assume that our trees are just as valuable as our mining resources.
Shouldn’t they be viewed as equals? However, trees come back and rocks do not, so why the desire to over-monitor the trees?
Our communities depend on these resources, as does the rest of the world. Currently, we are waiting and waiting, trees and rocks.
Thunder Bay's Mike Shusterman is vice-president of operations and business development for Red Rock Mill Inc and Multiply Flooring Products Inc.