A Vale train dumps slag on Oct. 12. Slag is a byproduct of the smelting process. Gino Donato/Sudbury Star
The economy of Greater Sudbury will move forward sluggishly this year, the Conference Board of Canada said Tuesday.
“Sudbury’s economy bounced back last year thanks to improved nickel prices. This year, the recovery will continue, but at a much slower pace,” Alan Arcand, associate director, Centre for Municipal Studies for the Conference Board of Canada, said in a release.
Sudbury’s economy will grow by 1.1 per cent in 2018, down from a 2.1 per cent gain in 2017, the Conference Board of Canada predicted in its report, Metropolitan Outlook: Winter 2018.
Those projections are included the board’s Metropolitan Outlook report, which offers analysis of 16 cities across Canada. The Conference Board of Canada is a non-partisan think tank that analyzes economic trends and public policy issues.
In Sudbury, the board said the local primary and utilities sector, which includes mining activity, is set to cool considerably this year, following a 4.2 per cent expansion in 2017. However, this will be offset by an expected recovery in manufacturing.
“Underpinned by a modest uptick in housing starts and ongoing work on a major local road project (the expansion of Maley Drive), Sudbury’s construction sector will continue to grow this year, albeit at a slower pace than last year,” the board said.
“Higher new home construction should also help lift growth in finance, insurance, and real estate, which would be its first increase in five years. Local employment is set to rise 1.1 per cent in 2018, offsetting a decline last year and holding the unemployment rate relatively stable at 6.6 per cent.
“We expect Sudbury’s population to remain flat over the forecast.”
On Friday, Statistics Canada said Sudbury lost 600 jobs in February. The agency, in its monthly labour force report, said Sudbury had 79,600 jobs in February, compared to 80,200 the month before.
However, Sudbury’s jobless rate in the city was 6.7 per cent last month, a 0.1 drop from January. That’s because the labour force — those working or looking for work — dropped to 85,300 in February from 85,900 the month before.
Looking forward, there is some good news for Sudbury’s economy. Vale and Glencore — two of the city’s largest employers — is committing about $700 million each to develop new mines and will be using cutting-edge, automated machines to reach the ore located more than two kilometres below the surface.
Vale is going ahead with its Copper Cliff Deep project, which includes refurbishing the south shaft at the Copper Cliff complex and eventual access to an ore body beneath Kelly Lake. The first phase is pegged at $760 million.
Glencore has freed up $700 million for Onaping Depth, a new project near Craig Mine that will burrow 2.6 km into the earth.
Two other projects — albeit controversial ones — also promise to create new economic activity and jobs in Sudbury. City council is attempting to create the so-called Kingsway entertainment district that will house a new arena/events centre and casino, as well as new hotels and other projects.
Advocates say the district would lead to hundreds of millions in construction activity and hundreds of new jobs. However, the arena and casino also face intense legal and political opposition.
Noront Resources is also proposing to build a $1-billion facility to process ferrochrome from the Ring of Fire and Sudbury is one of four Northern Ontario communities in the running to host the project (along with Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins).
The facility is expected to create 350 direct and 150 indirect jobs, plus spinoff jobs.
A decision on where to locate the facility is expected later this year, but environmental critics say the Coniston site proposed by the City of Greater Sudbury is inappropriate.
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