Originally published on the DaninOttawa.com site on December 7th, 2011.
Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Merritt for the opening of a new silver mine. As mines go, this one is relatively modest in size, in fact once up in running it will employ between 60 to 70 full- time employees. However from a licensing and environmental perspective, this mine had to go through an almost identical regulatory process as a very large mine. As an example, in spite of spending millions of dollars in new technology that negates the need for water discharge, discharge permits were still required. With close to six million dollars of equipment on site and a workforce of roughly a dozen people currently assembling the mill, the permit process is still the one lagging behind. I mention all of this because often some interest groups like to suggest that the environmental approval process required for a mine approval is nothing more than a rubber stamp. After spending my morning chatting with the mine President Ryan Sharp I can confirm that is anything but the case.
Getting back to this Silver Mine and why it I believe it is important, there are a few facts that I think are important to be mindful of for all us. While I mentioned earlier that this mine will be relatively modest with a workforce under 70 people, this mine still represents an annual injection into the Merritt economy in excess of $ 12 million dollars a year. Merritt is another community that has been particularly hard hit by the challenges in the forest industry and these much-needed, well-paying jobs will make a real difference to the local economy. I should also add that the taxes and royalties to the provincial Government are also in the millions. But there are some other facts that are important to be aware of. Mr. Sharp takes great pride in the fact that 30% of his workforce will be from the local first nation’s community. In fact part of why I was asked to attend the opening of this mine is because Mr. Sharp has indicated that there is shortage of skilled mine workers and he believes that a training program for the First Nation’s community can help to address that. In the past, my understanding is that Ottawa has funded at least one pilot program in this area and I am in support of researching the potential for another.
In addition to his weekly MP Report. the Dan in Ottawa blog is another resource for residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla. Chronicling Dan’s personal experiences as he travels to Ottawa and throughout the riding as your MP.
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