In Our Words: Attracting other industries key for survival

It’s time to see what other industries we can attract to the north.

Flin Flon, along with so many other towns in remote parts of Canada, has lived, thrived and crashed according to forces beyond the community’s control – the whims of mining companies, raw material and mineral prices, the undulations of the Canadian dollar, things like that.

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Considering the anxiety and worry about Hudbay’s current plan to shut down most, if not all of its Flin Flon operations in the next two years, where should we look for a Plan B? Do we just continue looking at mining as the one and only major industry for the region? Do we have to keep going to the same well, when we don’t know whether or not the well is dry?

If you ask any of the old retired miners at a coffee corner or a longtime Hudbay employee, most will say that reports of Flin Flon’s death have been greatly exaggerated. There’s plenty of ore in those rocks, they’ll say. Nothing to worry about.

Hudbay just spent $19 million in research in the last year to find another big deposit. No major discoveries near Flin Flon were noted. Are we supposed to believe, if there’s tons of ore still in the ground, that Hudbay managed to sink eight figures into searching and couldn’t find it in their own backyard? That sounds like a stretch.

Flin Flon hasn’t been the best at welcoming other industry in the past. Years ago, I remember watching from university as the discussion around the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and a potential nuclear waste storage facility raged on. People argued about whether Flin Flon’s geography was the right fit for the project, whether the company behind the project was asking for too much money from different levels of government, whether either Manitoba or Saskatchewan’s provincial legislatures would play ball with the plan. I can remember there being quite a not-in-my-backyard feeling around the discussion. Whatever happened with the debate, the project didn’t happen.

I’m not going to take a side on that project – it’s in the past. But opposition or no opposition, wouldn’t it be great if there was another major employer in Flin Flon to serve as a backstop in case another industry just stopped?

If there was another industry in Flin Flon – forestry, for example, or a geothermal energy station, even something more trendy like a bitcoin mining operation, a cannabis grow-op in a mine shaft somewhere, anything – the leverage in this situation shifts to municipal government and to the public.

Suddenly, families wouldn’t be left wondering if there’s going to be a town for them to raise their children in five years from now, or if there will be no jobs, no prospects and no hope.

That’s going to need support from the public. It can be too easy, if a bright prospect comes up, to just shrug your shoulders and assume that Flin Flon won’t need it.

I understand change or a well-thought out plan don’t just show up overnight. These things take time. But I’m sure you’re just as impatient as I am – every day we get closer to a shutdown date, the pressure mounts even more.

This is my hometown. I was raised here, I graduated from Hapnot and this is the town I work my butt off to cover. I’ve got an emotional stake in this. We have to at least have a back-up plan in case Plan A falls apart.

Otherwise, it won’t be long before “not in my backyard” turns into there being literally nothing in your backyard.

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