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Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 18, 2013.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canada's international co-operation minister says there are "huge opportunities" for the country's mining industry to work with the Canadian government in developing countries.

Speaking at the annual board of directors' meeting for the Mining Association of Canada, Julian Fantino said the extractive industry can play an important role in Canada's international development efforts.

"There is huge, huge opportunities, I believe, for your industry," Mr. Fantino said. He said mining companies are already working successfully with the Canadian government and NGOs, adding, "I encourage you to stay tuned."

The Conservative government views the mining sector as an important player in its international development efforts as it works to increase partnerships with the private sector. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would work with Tanzania and Peru on governance issues in the extractive industry. Canadian mining companies will also have to meet new requirements on disclosing payments to governments, Mr. Harper said.

CIDA has already launched projects in several developing countries that are co-funded by the agency, a mining company, and a non-governmental organization. The projects, which are managed by NGOs, have attracted some criticism, in part because they are viewed as subsidizing mining companies' corporate social responsibility programs.

In his comments to the Mining Association of Canada, Mr. Fantino dismissed criticism of the government's strategy and praised the Canadian extractive industry's work. "Your industry is a leader, internationally, and we want to help you succeed," he said.

Last fall, Canada established the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which is meant to help developing countries establish policies to better govern their mining sectors. The institute "will be your biggest and best ambassador," Mr. Fantino told mining representatives on Wednesday, adding that it would draw on Canadian success in the mining industry and share lessons from Canada with other countries.

The government is planning to merge CIDA's work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, a shift Mr. Fantino said will help create a "united front" on international policy. Canada's international development work will retain its focus on poverty alleviation under the new department, according to the legislation the government has put forward on the merger.

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