As mentioned in my last quarterly message, the year 2013 will define for many in the industry their ability to build strategic partnerships; raise venture capital and private equity; enter into joint agreements; and successfully explore – not just here in BC – but anywhere in the world. Many AME BC members, particularly the juniors, continued in survival mode. The majority of respondents to a fall AME BC survey reported a decline in exploration spending and intentions of continuing to reduce spending in 2014. And in November, SNL Metals Economics Group reported an estimated 29% drop in global exploration spending for the year 2013. That said, increasingly there are signs that British Columbia is seen internationally as a safe haven for investment in mineral exploration compared to other jurisdictions due to its mineral development potential, stable government, infrastructure and improvements in its permitting regime. On top of that, we expect to see continued strong demand from Asia for commodities such as gold, copper and coal. Given these positive indicators of potential success, it is estimated that BC now attracts 21% of exploration spending in Canada, compared to just 11% during the last economic downturn in 2009.
But for BC to reach its true potential, it is clear that further improvements in permitting and a consistent, fair and science-based approach to environmental assessments are required. This message was reflected in December as part of AME BC’s participation in a business coalition that urged the federal government to undertake a balanced review of the New Prosperity copper-gold project. The BC Supreme Court also reinforced this message on December 10 when it ruled that the BC government’s rejection of the proposed Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness”. It was no surprise then that the importance of having robust and timely permitting and environmental assessment processes were also key findings from two member surveys AME BC conducted this fall: one on the state of human resources in the mineral exploration and development sector and another focused on ranking AME BC's top policy recommendations to government for 2014. The detailed results of both surveys will be discussed at Mineral Exploration Roundup 2014.
Challenging times represent an opportunity for government and AME BC to step up even more as leaders and advocates for the mineral exploration and development sector based in BC. Having the right policies and implementing them successfully over time will create an even more attractive business and investment climate for the benefit of every family for generations to come. Over the past quarter, AME BC’s volunteer members and staff have been very active in developing the new Aboriginal Engagement Guidebook and revised edition of Safety Guidelines for Mineral Exploration in Western Canada. And as we start the year 2014, final preparations are underway for the 30th anniversary of Mineral Exploration Roundup 2014 from January 27 to 30. Along with getting ready to host another strong technical conference, trade show and networking event, this will be an opportunity to bid farewell to our long-time host, The Westin Bayshore, before we transition to our new home under the sails at Canada Place in the Vancouver Convention Centre East in 2015. If you have not already done so, now is the time to visithttp://www.amebc.ca/roundup
to register for the conference as well as special events featuring keynote speakers Derek White from KGHM, Martin Murenbeeld from Dundee Capital Markets, Robert Quartermain from Pretivm, Walter Heneghan from Canadian Helicopters, Duncan Trapp from CHC Helicopter and Anthony Hodge from the International Council on Mining and Metals.
The theme of Mineral Exploration Roundup 2014 is “Resources for Life”, and this is a theme we will continue to broadcast far and wide in our key messages and communication efforts during the year. As AME BC members can appreciate, metals, minerals and coal are essential to our modern society and everyday life. As industry advocates we need to ensure that this message reaches the public and that AME BC members are helping to spread the message. For example, here are just a few examples of the importance of some commodities that are explored for, and developed, in BC:
- Green technologies rely largely on steelmaking coal. Consider the use of steel in wind turbines and bicycles. In fact, 770 kilograms of coal are used in the production of one tonne of steel.
- Copper is a critical source for electrical wire, but did you know that copper-zinc alloys, such as brass, create naturally bacteria-resistant door handles and other surfaces touched by thousands of hands?
- Gold's resistance to oxidation and mechanical robustness make the metal indispensable for nanotechnology used in our mobile phones.
In addition to such messaging, AME BC will intensify its efforts this year to urge government to commit to truly protecting the public’s valuable mineral, metal and coal-bearing lands. Reducing the land base and access to prospect, explore and potentially develop these critical resources results in lost social and economic opportunity for everyone and is ultimately unsustainable. AME BC will also be sharing materials that explain the mineral exploration life cycle and BC’s modern Mineral Tenure Act that was amended as recently as 2012.
On behalf of the staff and board of AME BC, I thank the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of members of the Association for their valuable support and contributions in making AME BC one of the best industry advocacy associations for mineral exploration and development in the world.
In particular, I offer special thanks to Michael McPhie, our outgoing Chair of the Board, for his commitment he has shown to the Association over the past two years.
Finally, please remember to have a safe day, every day, wherever this quarterly message finds you!
Best regards and I look forward to seeing you at Roundup,
Best regards, Gavin C. Dirom, M.Sc., P. Ag.