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Prospectors urge Timmins politicians to pressure the province for support.

Prospectors in the Timmins camp say there is only one real issue when it comes to the Timmins' municipal election, and the issue is creating the political climate necessary to stimulate exploration.

With ore reserves continuing their dramatic decline in Timmins, Steve Parry, president of the Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association, says it is up to city council, and in particular the mayor, to turn the situation around.

"They (council) have to put direct pressure on the provincial government to either change some of their policies or to encourage exploration through some of the province's incentive programs," explains Parry, who doubles as exploration manager for Total Energold Corporation.

Although the province has both the Ontario Mineral Incentive Program (OMIP) and the Ontario Prospectors Assistance Program (OPAP) in place, the monies in the programs are not easily accessed, says Parry.

"The OMIP program, which is the one for companies, is funded to a total of $8 million. It's a fairly small number and it was underfunded," he charges.

Even so, Parry says the province "is telling us that there is not sufficient exploration going on even to take up $8 million of essentially free government money."

"That's extraordinary," he comments, claiming that the program has failed to encourage exploration.

Parry charges that potential investors have been scared away from Ontario by tough new environmental laws (Bill 220) as well as negotiations for Native self-government which affect potential exploration projects.

And there is no help coming from "a preoccupied" federal government, he complains.

"Maybe I'm being overly cynical, or maybe I'm being overly pessimistic, but I feel the federal government is so buried under other issues that it really is not giving this (exploration) the type of attention it deserves," he says.

While he applauds Timmins Mayor Dennis Welin for sending a letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney asking him to stop selling Canadian gold to prop up the dollar, Parry believes now is not the time to approach the feds for help.

He maintains that municipalities must put pressure on the province.

"If the local people put pressure on the mayor and the mayor puts pressure on the provincial government, eventually the province will start to pressure the feds," he says.

Parry compares the strategy to one used by the East Coast fisheries industry.

"The pressure started at the bottom with the fishermen. They started having strikes and major media events to get things rolling. Then some of the big fishing towns and their councils got involved, and now the provinces are actively part of the lobby effort to convince Ottawa to change policies. I think mining has to look at things very much the same way," he says.

Parry says the first step is to make sure the next council and mayor aggressively approach the problem.

"That's really where the starting point has to be," he adds.

But the association's president also believes that exploration is a difficult issue for politicians, especially municipal ones, to grasp.

"The effect of not exploring now happens 10 years from now when there is no more ore. That's the problem. Municipal politicians say their term lasts only three years and that they don't have to worry about 10 years down the road," says Parry.

"That's what leads to an Elliot Lake or a Kapuskasing with stop-gap measures, panic, refinancing and that sort of thing," he adds.

Parry maintains that it would cost the province less to get exploration rolling than it does to bail out a community. He wants to see this message delivered to Queen's Park by all mining municipalities, with Timmins taking the leading role.

"Timmins has been recognized for literally decades as one of the centres, if not the centre, of exploration in Canada and one of the key centres in North America," he notes.

"We've had the role and we're losing it because of the nature of business in Ontario. With the dwindling exploration dollars, this position is being lost, and it should be going the other way."

Until recently, a strong base of mineral reserves and an active exploration sector made exploration a "non-issue" in Timmins. Mines like the Hollinger, Dome and Kidd Creek provided reserves that could be measured in generations, not just years.

"But we haven't had a major find in a few decades, and the current projections indicate the end of known reserves within 15 years," notes Parry. "To put it bluntly, bridge locations, budget deficits and pot holes on city streets won't matter one bit if there is nothing left to mine."

He says Kidd Creek Mine, Timmins's major employer, has between 10 and 15 years of reserves left.

"If there is no Kidd Creek feeding the Kidd Creek smelter, what happens to the Kidd Creek smelter? It's a big problem," maintains Parry.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Mining Report
Author:Nash, Jeff
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:798
Previous Article:Kidd Creek research turns waste into new products.
Next Article:Financing sought by Central Crude to continue work at Moss Lake site.
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