Northern Ontario's Ring of Fire mining project becomes a reality
Canada’s Ring of Fire mining project in Northern Ontario could be one step closer to reality. Ontario and Matawa First Nations have reached an agreement that paves the way for progress. On Wednesday, the province’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines confirmed that the province and the chiefs of all nine member First Nations of the Matawa Tribal Council had signed the agreement.
The agreement will enable development of the swamp some 540kms north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The region, dubbed ‘Canada’s next oil sands’ is estimated to house $60 billion in minerals including chromite, nickel and copper.
“This regional framework agreement is a landmark achievement in community and regional discussions,” said Michael Gravelle, Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
As yet, no details of the agreement have been revealed, however the press release did mention the deal would mean, “enhanced participation in the environmental assessment process,” for First Nations. From the offset a lack of consultation regarding environmental concerns had left many of the Matawa First Nations feeling affronted.
SEE MORE: Inside Century Iron Mines
The landmark agreement follows months of intense negotiations over a number of key sticking points. According to the Huffington Post Canada, those issues included environmental monitoring, resource revenue-sharing arrangements and regional and community infrastructure and social assistance.
Negotiations began in September between the province’s chief negotiator, Frank Iacobucci, and Bob Rae, who worked on behalf of the Matawa nations. The process was expected to take about a year, however the lack of agreement between the province and First Nations had deterred some miners from making investments. The province has been keen to settle negotiations for some time owing to the potential billions of dollars in royalties it could receive if the project takes off. The time it has taken to come to an agreement however, has meant that initial buy in has waned.
Cliffs Natural Resources, the biggest player in the 5,000 square km area, cited a lack of progress between government and First Nations as a major reason behind its decision to suspend its $3.3 billion Black Thor chromite project last year. Noront Resources Ltd., the Toronto-based miner with the most advanced project in the region, said Wednesday it is encouraged by the news.
“We've always felt that having the right conversations is essential for progress in the Ring of Fire, and we expect that development will now be able move ahead in a timely fashion,” said President and CEO Alan Coutts.
Furthermore, the chiefs, acting on behalf of their communities, expressed optimism that the agreement would be meaningful in the long-term. “I’ve seen many framework type processes come and go, and MOUs, and some have had beneficial results but many have not gone anywhere,” said Chief Elijah K. Moonias of Marten Falls First Nation.
“I am optimistic that this regional framework allows us to be more involved in development and the decision-making that is going to happen.”
Many of the other chiefs expressed optimism the agreement will show they are open for business and understand the need to balance economic interests with environmental and social impacts.
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.