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I. Profile of Ontario’s Mining Sector

  • Issued: September 10, 2014
  • Content last reviewed: September 2014
  • See also: Final Report

Ontario’s mining industry is highly diverse and comprises both underground and surface operations as well as processing plants. It also includes sand and gravel operations and mineral exploration sites. Companies mine a wide range of mineral commodities, including gold, nickel, copper, salt, diamonds and a number of structural building materials. In 2013, Ontario’s mining industry employed over 27,000 people directly, and created over 50,000 indirect jobs in the province through its supply chains and support activities. The average weekly wage paid in the mining sector in 2011 was almost 60% more than the Ontario average industrial wage, while wages paid in the mining support sector were almost 95% higher.[ 3 ]

Underground mines account for the majority of direct and indirect jobs in the mining sector. Currently 38 mines are in operation with another eight expected to be opened in the next decade[4]. The opening of a new mine generates approximately $22 million in Gross Domestic Product. In addition, on average a mine creates 300 direct jobs and over 2200 indirect jobs[5] Northern Ontario has the bulk of underground mines and the resultant economic impact.

Employment from mining at large is spread across the province but concentrated in northern Ontario. In recent years, the province has seen major opportunities emerge in the “Ring of Fire” region in the Far North. A variety of mineral deposits have been found, including chromite, which is a critical ingredient in stainless steel and otherwise unobtainable in North America.

A Growing and Changing Industry

Supported by rising global commodity demand in recent years, Ontario has seen strong growth in the mining sector. Since 2009, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the mining sector increased at an average annual pace of 5.7 per cent – much stronger than the 1.2 per cent pace real GDP growth in the wider economy[6].

The outlook for Ontario’s mining sector is very robust. In its survey of available private sector forecasts, the Ontario Ministry of Finance found a range of views with the majority anticipating increased output from the mining sector. Over the next five years, it is anticipated there will be more new mine start-ups than existing mine closures, with an expected net increase of eight mines. There is also predicted to be an expansion of some existing mines.

With new underground mining practices and with the continuous demand to operate as efficiently as possible, there will be more demand for new technology. With more mining operations in remote locations, there will be increased need for off-site technical support. As the underground mining industry has become more global, foreign investment and ownership in the Ontario mining sector has increased significantly. These new investments have led to an increase in new technologies and production approaches. The mining sector is now more sophisticated and complex than in the past, and this trend is likely to continue. New technologies and approaches all have implications for health and safety.

Workforce Challenges

The growth in the mining sector is occurring at a time when the workforce is aging. By 2018, approximately 50% of Ontario miners will exit the industry – more than half of these through retirement[7]. Employee losses of this scale will create large hiring requirements and training needs[8]. Historically, Ontario’s mining industry has accounted for 14,900 new entrants into the workforce over a 10-year period – or 3 per cent of people entering the workforce[9]. However, a Mining Industry Human Resource Council (MiHR) report estimates that Ontario’s mineral sector may require up to 59,000 new employees by 2023[10]. Given the new mining technologies and approaches, these employees will need different skills.

The provincial government has been working closely with industry associations, community stakeholders, the education sector, and health and safety associations to implement strategies to ensure this vital sector has the skilled employees it needs. For example, there are more education opportunities for students, more efforts to improve the industry’s image and more efforts to attract new talent to the north and retain them. Industry organizations are taking a proactive approach by educating students and teachers about the industry. Employers are also training and hiring non-traditional mining employees such as women and Indigenous people.

The long-term labour supply challenges are different for the industry as a whole than they are for regional development projects like the Ring of Fire or for specific new mines and expansions. According to the industry view, in the short term there is a global pool of talent that is meeting current employment needs; however, remote mines may find recruitment more challenging.

Given the growth in Ontario’s mining sector, its increasing complexity (i.e. deeper mines, more remote mines) and the growing reliance on relatively inexperienced employees, there will be increased demands on the occupational health and safety system.

The Review’s final report will include a more detailed analysis of these workforce challenges and their implications for new mine development and expansion.

Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario’s Mining Industry

In 2013, 25 critical injuries and three traumatic fatalities were reported to the Ministry of Labour for the mining sector[11]. Over the last 10 years, the number of critical injury events reported to the ministry has decreased. On an annual basis, the number of fatalities reported has fluctuated between one and five, and has been slightly higher in the recent past. To date in 2014, six fatalities have been reported to the Ministry of Labour.

Over the past 10 years, in the Ontario Mining sector:

  • 337 critical injuries were reported to the Ministry of Labour
  • 24 fatalities were reported to the Ministry of Labour
  • 193 occupational disease fatality claims were allowed by the WSIB

Figure 1. Fatalities in Mining Sector Not Showing Significant Improvement Fatalities in Mining Sector Not Showing Significant Improvement

Source: Ministry of Labour Data systems

Data for Figure 1: Fatalities in Mining Sector Not Showing Significant Improvement
YearFatalitiesCritical Injuries
2004 1 52
2005 1 45
2006 3 33
2007 4 36
2008 2 38
2009 1 23
2010 1 30
2011 5 31
2012 3 24
2013 3 25

In 2013, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) allowed a total of 158 occupational disease fatality claims[12]. Of these, 11 (7%) were related to the mining sector, which is roughly ten times the proportion of the insured workforce engaged in mining work[13]. Given the fact that it can take many years for an occupational disease to develop, it is important for the industry to take steps today to identify and address potential future sources of occupational disease. Prevention has the potential to save many lives.

In terms of WSIB injury claims in the mining sector, the number has declined over the past 10 years. In 2013, the mining sector had an allowed lost time injury rate of 0.79 per 100 workers, which is less than half the 2004 rate of 1.73 per 100 workers[14]. This trend reflects a drop in allowed lost time injuries from 389 to 231 – despite an increase in the insurable workforce over that time period[15]. Throughout this period, the lost time injury rate in mining has been lower than the average of Schedule 1 employers[16], and it has declined more sharply than the overall rate among Schedule 1 employers (i.e. from 1.88 to 0.95 injuries per 100 insured workers)[17].

Figure 2. Allowed Lost Time Injury Rate per 100 Insured workers (2004-2013) Allowed Lost Time Injury Rate per 100 Insured workers (2004-2013)

Source: WSIB (2014). By The Numbers: 2014 WSIB Statistical Report, Schedule 1. Data is as at March 31st of the following year for each injury/illness year

Data for Figure 2: Allowed Lost Time Injury Rate per 100 Insured workers (2004-2013)
YearLTI Rate
2004 1.73
2005 1.39
2006 1.26
2007 1.30
2008 1.13
2009 0.96
2010 0.98
2011 1.12
2012 0.87
2013 0.79

Joint research among the Ministry of Labour, the Institute for Work and Health, and the Centre for Spatial Economics (C4SE) highlights how important it is for the mining sector to continue to reduce allowed injury claims. Assuming the growth in mining sector employment forecasted by C4SE, if injury incidence rates remain at 2011 levels by 2022, the number of annual total injury and illness claims (lost-time and no lost-time claims) would be 1,730[18]. However, if injury rates continue to decline consistent with the trend from 2001-2011, the number of total injury and illness claims would be 962 – or a difference of 768 compensation claims[19].

Figure 3. Annual Allowed Claims for the Mining Sector Annual Allowed Claims for the Mining Sector

Source: Institute for Work and Health based on WSIB data and C4SE forecasts.

Data for Figure 3: Annual Allowed Claims for the Mining Sector (2000-2011)
YearClaims
2000 2199
2001 2187
2002 2031
2003 2003
2004 2251
2005 2028
2006 1831
2007 2079
2008 2209
2009 1530
2010 1422
2011 1885
Data for Figure 3: Projected Allowed Claims for the Mining Sector in 2022
Annual Allowed Claims: No Improvements 1730
Annual Allowed Claims: Continuing Improvements 962

Endnotes

[ 3 ] University of Toronto, Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario's Future, 2012.

[ 4 ] Ministry of Northern Development and Mining. 2014

[ 5 ] University of Toronto, Ontario Mining, A Partner in Prosperity Building. 2007.

[ 6 ] Statistics Canada, Gross Domestic Product by Industry: Provinces and Territories, 2013

[ 7 ] Mining Industry Human Resources Council, “Ontario Labour Market Demand Project”, 2009.

[ 8 ] Mining Industry Human Resources Council, “Ontario Labour Market Demand Project”, 2009

[ 9 ]Mining Industry Human Resources Council, “Sudbury Hiring Requirements Forecast”, 2013.

[ 10 ] Mining Industry Human Resources Council, “Sudbury Hiring Requirements Forecast”, 2013.

[ 11 ] Events include only those that have been reported to the Ministry, and may not represent what actually occurred at the workplace. A fatal injury within Ministry of Labour jurisdiction includes an injury or incident resulting in the death of an employee. This excludes death from natural causes, death of a non-employee at a workplace, suicides, death under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Code, Highway Traffic Act and Canada Labour Code and death from occupational exposures that occurred many years ago. The Ministry of Labour investigates injuries toin employees covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The critical injury numbers represent critical injuries reported to the Ministry, and may not necessarily represent critical injuries as defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Critical injury events recorded in the ministry’s data systems may include injuries to non-employees, as workplaces are required to report these events. Data are subject to change due to inspectors’ updates to the enforcement database.

[ 12 ] Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. (2014). By The Numbers: 2013 WSIB Statistical Report, Schedule 1, pp.97 Data is at March 31st, 2014 for the entitlement year.

[ 13 ] Based on WSIB covered employment for Schedule 1, (2014) pp 9. Data is as at March 31st of the following year for each injury/illness year

[ 14 ] Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. (2014). By The Numbers: 2013 WSIB Statistical Report, Schedule 1, pp.13 Data is at March 31st, 2014 for the entitlement year.

[ 15 ] Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. (2014). By The Numbers: 2013 WSIB Statistical Report, Schedule 1, pp.10-11 Data is at March 31st, 2014 for the entitlement year

[ 16 ] Schedule 1 employers are required by legislation to pay premiums to the WSIB and are protected by a system of collective liability. The WSIB pays benefits to injured workers from the pooled insurance fund so Schedule 1 employers are relieved of individual responsibility for actual accident costs.

[ 17 ] Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. (2014). By The Numbers: 2013 WSIB Statistical Report, Schedule 1, pp.13. Data is at March 31st, 2014 for the entitlement year

[ 18 ] Calculations based on employment forecasts provided by the Centre for Spatial Economics for 2012-2022 and the allowed claim rate per 100 workers for 2011.

[ 19 ] Claim rates were projected for 2012-2022 by the Institute for Work & Health using a log-linear method based on the claim rates for 2001-2011. Calculations used this projected claim rate and the C4SE forecasted employment.

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