PORT HAWKESBURY: Over 140 of the region’s business and community leaders heard about activities in three key sectors; the creative economy, industry, and a focus on new investments during the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual “State of the Strait Business Update” on March 13 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
“The ‘State of the Strait Business Update’ event is an opportunity for businesses across the region to share successes of the past year and to look to their future,” Amanda Mombourquette, executive director of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce said. “It’s part of the chamber’s efforts to ensure that these positive developments are communicated and showcased – it sets the tone for the region’s business climate over the course of the upcoming year.”
A presentation on the Creative Island concept by the Cape Breton Partnership laid the foundation for an informative creative economy pane, highlights of which included an update from renowned Indigenous artist, Jay Bell Redbird from the Friends United Cultural Centre, and Sara Rankin of Mabou. Rankin’s company Sara Rankin Creative Co. was recently recognized by Design Drizzle Digital Magazine as one of the top 10 logo design firms world-wide.
Kicking off the industry panel, Nova Scotia Community College provided insight into their new industry-related programming for the Strait Area Campus.
Michael Kelloway, community innovation lead with NSCC, said the college used to be somewhat siloed in their approach to training, athletic research and other activities.
“In June 2018 it was decided, and rightfully so, that we would focus on a calm, coordinated approach to workforce development; customized training and applied research,” he said, introducing the program. “The new department is the Innovation of Industry Engagement in the Strait area. What that means is that I along with my principal Tom Gunn and the management team at the Strait will be more actively involved in applied training and research opportunities.”
Their mission, vision and promise are the three pieces that’s firing this new approach to economic development, to training, and to applied research that has meaningful impacts on small enterprise and large-scale industry.
Kelloway said they will look at the questions of how are they going to solve problems for local businesses and how are they going to enhance an existing solution.
“It could be anything from energy to geomatics, to using LIDAR to map the ocean floor,” he explained. “It could be anything around the supply chain, business development, so that’s relatively new for this part of the area.”
Applied research carried out by NSCC from 2013-18 totals $13.2 million in research funding, 319-plus projects, nine-plus campus locations with activity, 60-plus research staff, 100-plus publications and reports, 500-plus student interactions and 40-plus senior projects – but the focus on applied research has been done in Metro Halifax.
“These are really great numbers, a lot of research projects, a lot of research dollars that have been brought into the business sector and communities,” Kelloway said. “What our campus wants to do is make these numbers a reality in the Strait area.”
He indicated there are five areas NSCC focuses research on; energy, ocean technology, engineered technologies, environmental and agricultural technologies, and geomatics. In the past seven months since the change has occurred, NSCC has had six or seven tangible applied research opportunities from businesses and community groups in the Strait area.
“So the key thing for us is to be coordinated, collaborative and keep the lines of communication open,” Kelloway said. “Let’s destroy silos.”
Additional updates on two heavy industry developments for Goldboro were provided by Pieridae Energy Ltd. and their LNG project and by Anaconda Mining Inc. and their proposed gold mine project – both of which have recently announced significant steps forward.
Dustin Angelo, president of Anaconda told The Reporter the day after the event that the recent $5 million loan agreement with the Royal Bank of Canada will provide them with enhanced financial flexibility and allow for the completion of all pre-construction activity at Goldboro.
“The facility now enables us to execute on our business plan in an accelerated, focused manner, with our debt service obligations easily funded from our mine operations,” he said. “This facility, combined with our continued free cash flow generation from the Point Rousse Project, will enable us to advance the Goldboro Gold Project to a construction-decision stage in early 2020, at an exceptionally low cost of capital and without any dilution to our shareholders.”
Anaconda expects to finalize a feasibility study for the Goldboro location this year and complete all work required to obtain mining permits to be shovel-ready in early 2020.
Angelo also spoke on the company’s decision to build a full-scale processing facility in Goldboro, rather than the previously proposed open-pit mine. Gold mines produce rough gold, called dore bars, and he noted that these ‘dirty’ bars are typically about 80 per cent pure gold, and the gold is then sent to a refinery, where it is refined into different forms and purity.
“The simple answer is the Goldboro deposit is getting much larger, so we can justify from an economic perspective putting all the capital in the ground at Goldboro. So now we can build a full-scale mill,” he said. “What we were originally contemplating through our preliminary economic assessment that was released in January 2018, was that we were going to do an open-pit mine and build a concentrator and concentrate the ore at Goldboro and then ship it to back to Newfoundland.”
Now that Anaconda has seen Goldboro is growing bigger from an exploration perspective, they can build enough longevity that they’ll receive a return on the additional capital put into the ground – their upfront capital costs rises slightly from $90 to $100 million.
Angelo highlighted that Anaconda is entering into their feasibility study and that will really dive deep into those costs even more.
“One of the key things too from an economic perspective for the company with that project is we’re adding that upfront capital cost but we’re also eliminating the transportation costs,” he said of the benefit of not having to ship the ore off-site. “It offsets, we’ll save some operating costs along the way.”
When Anaconda acquired the project in 2017 from Orex Exploration, Angelo indicated between measured and indicated resources there was a total mineral estimate of about 870,000 ounces. After 12,000 metres of initial drilling the estimate has expanded to 1,560,000 ounces.
“As we’ve gone through this exploration program, we were drilling in area that we continue to see mineralization at depth in the deposit,” he said. “Our target goal internally with of the company, is we’re looking to build a deposit of two-million ounces; based off of what we’ve seen so far.”
The event concluded with a heartfelt keynote from Fabian Henry, founder of Marijuana for Trauma, Veterans for Healing, and Cape Breton CannaPharms. His story is built around his passion to help soldiers transitioning from service to civilian life, particularly those suffering from mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder.
The purchase of lands in Chimney Corner, Egypt Falls, and most recently the former call centre building in Port Hawkesbury are part of Henry’s overall plan to develop Cape Breton as a healing destination for veterans across Canada.
Upcoming in October, with the help of local singer-songwriter Keith Mullins, he’ll be hosting the first annual soldiers songwriter camp at a farm acquired in Pictou; allowing veterans to come together to express their own personal stories through song.
“You get to tell your story, and press play and never have to tell it again,” Henry said as he became emotional. “It gives some guys some hope, so they’ll stop killing themselves.”