Mayors react to new life-of-mine

Sam Odrowski

New Gold announced a new life of mine plan for its operations north of Barwick, with an expected closure in 2028.

Mayor June Caul said she isn’t too concerned about the mine’s reduction in lifespan from 2031, as there’s still several years to find other sources of employment for the region, preferably with an industry that’s more sustainable.

“Hopefully we can find something that will be here for the long haul and not just a certain number of years,” Mayor Caul remarked.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll find another industry or some other businesses that will continue to make this town a place that people want to come to live and work.”

Because of the town’s proximity to the Crossroute Forest, Mayor Caul said there might be a possibility of opening a wood yard or saw mill that utilizes local wood fibre.

The Shevlin Wood Yard is also being redeveloped and there’s ample opportunities for business and tourism attractions to be designed on the 22 acres of land that runs from the marina to Scott Street.

Although, the loss of the mine will still have a tremendous impact on the town, Mayor Caul noted.

“It certainly will impact us. There are people who [work at the mine that] have either bought houses or are renting here, so rental houses will probably be more available once it closes,” she reasoned.

When looking at Emo, which is in closest proximity to the mine, New Gold’s closing will have the strongest effect.

“The mine has certainly had a big impact on the township of Emo because a lot of people [who work there] did move in around that area, right throughout the district,” June Caul explained.

“It definitely will have an impact on taxpayers money coming in to help the town with their infrastructure costs and so on, so those kinds of things will definitely hit everybody to a certain extent.”

Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker said the New Gold mine has had a positive effect on the town’s economy, increasing housing, and creating a larger tax base for the town.

“We definitely noticed an increase in our housing,” he noted. “But then again, we’ve got to always think positive, not think negative and we’ll face that situation [of the mine closing] when and if it arises”

“I myself have a good feeling about the mine,” Mayor McQuaker continued. “I think that in the long run the mine will be quite viable for quite a few more years because they spent a lot of money first putting it in.”

“When you spend that big of dollars you’re looking for everything you can get out of it before you have to moth ball it,” he added.

New Gold has indicated there’s potential for the mine to push beyond the expected lifespan of 2028 depending on the prices of gold at that time and future exploration efforts.

Mayor McQuaker said he’s hopeful for the mine’s future and is optimistic about the district finding another industry to support its population.

“This Rainy River District has always been a district of survivors and I think we’ll make out okay,” he charged.

Meanwhile, Rainy River Mayor Deb Ewald said the new life-of-mine isn’t the greatest news but she’s glad to know it will continue to act as one of the largest employers in the district until 2028.

“If [New Gold] provides good paying jobs from now until then . . . that is six, seven years more,” she noted,

New Gold’s buses that help workers commute to work from Fort Frances and Emo, started travelling to Rainy River just over a year ago which has helped bring more people to the town.

Mayor Ewald said when the mine closes it will be similar to when the paper mill closed here, which forced a lot of younger skilled workers to move out west for employment.

“People have to go where the jobs are in order to raise families and support themselves,” she reasoned.

“That’s one of the downfalls of primary resource based economies is they have a finite life–most of them.”

Mayor Ewald said she’s from Atikokan originally and lived there when its mines were in operation and saw how their closing effected the town.

She said it’s a struggle to find another industry or business to bring a significant means of employment back and in the meantime much of the skilled labour force is lost as they leave for new jobs.

“Unfortunately it’s the young people that go so then we struggle with all the issues too of having a senior population,” Mayor Ewald explained.

The district needs to diversify its sources of employment and work to expand its scope, she noted.

“I’m happy to see the cash cropping and stuff in the agriculture sector,” Mayor Ewald lauded. “I think it’s good we are expanding in different areas but we definitely need some more long term type [industries].”

Manufacturing would be ideal due to the district’s close proximity to the United States border, Mayor Ewald told the Times.

“There’s opportunities [in manufacturing], especially with value added wood products and stuff,” she explained.

“Wood is a big driver for this area too–or it has been–so there’s lots of good things, we just have to find them.”

Mayor Ewald stressed that sustainable, long-term industries are what’s needed in the district.

“There’s always been people from Rainy River who work in Fort Frances, and vice versa . . . but we’ve kind of got to get out of the silo type thinking, where each community is looking out only for themselves,” she noted.

“I think now it’s more important than ever that you think of a district wide type of a plan . . . because where the district goes municipalities are going to go.”

Looking ahead, Mayor McQuaker said he’s hopeful about finding other sources of employment for Emo and the district after the mine folds.

“We can’t dwell on doom and gloom,” he stressed. “We’ve got to stay focused, we’ve got to move forward.”