With its concentration of mines and suppliers — and with Ajax poised to add to the wealth — Kamloops could become the new Sudbury.
The head of Canada's mining association drew the parallel between the city atop the Canadian Shield and the Tournament Capital during a public speech hosted by the Kamloops Exploration Group on Thursday.
"Kamloops should look hard at Sudbury and how it has begun to transform itself into a major mining centre with an increased global reach," Pierre Gratton told a public lecture at TRU Thursday evening.
While his speech focused on the big picture of mining globally, in an interview the president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada said the proposed Ajax mine can increase economic opportunities beyond digging ore out of the ground and sending it to Asia.
While Sudbury has a industrial image — Gratton called it a "moonscape" in the '60s — the northern Ontario city as well as mining itself have come a long way, he argued.
Gratton said around Sudbury is a network of mining supply and technology firms that contribute nearly $4 billion to the economy.
With global opportunities headlined by China, which now consumes 40 per cent of minerals and metals worldwide, Gratton said Kamloops is similarly poised to make a greater economic impact based on its history, concentration of mines and suppliers.
"Kamloops doesn't have the same concentration of mining as Sudbury," he said. "But if you look at Highland Valley, New Afton, Lafarge, you've got Absorbent Products — you've got a concentration."
There are also suppliers here that include Fountain Tire, Finning and SMS Equipment.
Gratton argues city leaders should act to take economic advantage of the B.C. Interior lifestyle and industrial base afforded by mining — with or without Ajax.
"It can happen without Ajax," he said. "With Ajax it's that much more obvious: there's a huge opportunity or the city to position itself as a hub."
Those spinoff opportunities can allow people here to pursue work globally, he said.
But Gratton cautioned leaders in business, municipal government and at Thompson Rivers University must pursue those opportunities in order to extend economic activity beyond the life of the mines.
"You can have a mine in operation for 17 years and not seize the day. To do what Sudbury did will require leadership and planning."
In his speech at TRU, Gratton took a big-picture approach, focusing on growth and prospects for a "supercyle" in mining — long-term growth based both on limited supply and growing demand.
"Commodity prices have fallen from their peaks in 2011 and just last fall some skeptics were predicting the end of the supercycle," Gratton said in notes prepared for his speech.
"I thought they were wrong and said so. Today, as prices have begun to rebound, I'd like to say, 'I told you so.'"