New Brunswick government can help further enhance province’s mining potential

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Appeared in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, May 27, 2024
New Brunswick government can help further enhance province’s mining potential

The current debate over a volcanic rock mine proposal in Dalhousie, the latest in a series of proposed mines in New Brunswick, underscores the regulatory hurdles that mining projects face in the province. If New Brunswickers want to fully seize the province’s mining potential, the Higgs government should enact a more transparent and less burdensome set of regulations.

According to a recent survey published by the Fraser Institute, which tracks the sentiment of mining investors in jurisdictions worldwide, 64 per cent of respondents said uncertainty about protected land deters investment in New Brunswick. Similarly, 54 per cent of respondents said regulatory duplications and inconsistencies negatively affect their investment decisions in the province, and 42 per cent pointed to disputed land claims as an investment deterrent.

But there’s good news. Mining investors are increasingly bullish on New Brunswick’s geological endowment amid shifting global demand for minerals. According to the survey, the province’s mineral potential score has increased in three of the past four years, improving to 24th best worldwide this year (after ranking between 31st and 72nd the prior four years). New Brunswick also has abundant reserves including potash, copper, zinc, lead, nickel and metal ores.

If the provincial government can improve the policy environment to increase New Brunswick’s attractiveness to investment, the province’s mining sector can further build on this mineral potential. That means jobs, economic activity and prosperity, particularly in rural communities. Indeed, wages in the sector tend to be well above average, and New Brunswick’s mineral endowments hold significant export potential, a key driver of prosperity. Economic research has shown that New Brunswick trails most Canadian provinces on employment income, so the opportunity to add well-paying jobs should be welcome news.

To be sure, we should always address reasonable environmental concerns before mining projects proceed. However, as the debate continues in Dalhousie, it’s important for New Brunswickers to understand the economic opportunity the mining sector represents. If the Higgs government can maintain and improve upon its policy environment, New Brunswick and its workers are well positioned to take advantage of increased investor confidence and satisfy the growing global demand for minerals.

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