When Bob Dylan penned “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in 1964, he was documenting an era of remarkable transformation in western society. Over 56 years later, this anthem of change in the tumultuous 1960s is wholly applicable the new decade of the 2020s for your Association for Mineral Exploration. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyst for many changes to our business and of course necessitated our first virtual Roundup. Our tradition of coming together at the annual conference at the end of January is certainly different in 2021, but I believe that this change to a virtual component will become permanent and we will embrace the opportunity to reach more explorers and stakeholders both at home in British Columbia, particularly in rural communities, as well as around the world. It has been a wild ride for explorers in B.C. over the past year! The crash in commodities and capital markets with the rapid, global spread of the pandemic quickly rebounded. Gold prices achieved record highs midway through 2020 and along with resurgent silver, copper and other commodities, junior companies’ share prices surged and capital markets opened, allowing for B.C. explorers to fill their coffers and get to work. Other jurisdictions saw similar rebounds; however, our province was certainly one of the hottest locations on the planet for explorers from grassroots through to advanced-stage projects.
During the spring of 2020, concern and uncertainty was understandably widespread; I would like to commend AME’s CEO, Kendra Johnston, for her strong and steady leadership. The Association was a first mover in developing and distributing COVID-19 safety protocols. Most of our work is obviously in rural and remote areas, however the potential for spreading the virus in a camp environment or to small communities, particularly to Indigenous people, has been of critical concern. As of this writing, our industry’s track record through the crisis has been excellent. My social media feeds during the summer were full of masked faces in helicopters and introductions of camp COVID coordinators! I am excited for the future of the mineral exploration and mining industry, with hopes of renewed mining in the short to medium-term at past producers such as Eskay Creek, Bralorne, Premier, Barkerville, Kemess, Scottie and Dolly Varden. It is also exciting to see progress at large projects with significant metal endowment like Blackwater, Galore Creek and Treaty Creek. The jobs and business opportunities at these deposits through exploration, development, operations and closure, particularly to rural British Columbians and First Nations, is and will be significant. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced another major challenge to AME; maintaining the Association’s operating revenue. This required significant and very difficult managerial decisions, including having to make staff cuts. Additionally, the transition to a virtual conference with significantly reduced revenue has made the importance of sponsorship by member companies even more important. I am proud of the diligence and leadership over the past year by the AME Board and staff and the Roundup Organizing Committee as they researched, planned and implemented these timely and important changes. Societal change continues to drive the evolution of our industry. From increased awareness of systemic racism through the Black Lives Matter movement to the provincial acceptance of UNDRIP, ESG components have become the most important consideration to investors and financiers of natural resource companies, large and small. I believe that AME continues to be a leader amongst mineral exploration and mining associations in these progressive movements.
Our NDP provincial government changed from minority to majority during the fall of 2020. During its first term, we were grateful for its commitment to responsible mineral exploration and an inclusive permitting process driven by science and consultation. We look forward to the implementation of the remaining items in the Mining Jobs Task Force and for further progress in clearing the permitting backlogs faced by many of our members over the next year.
Finally, further change and the end of two eras: first, this is the last print version of AME’s Mineral Exploration magazine. Our transition to a digital version will dramatically increase the reach of the excellent content in this quarterly publication. Second, I am reaching the end of my tenure as the chair for AME. It has been a privilege to serve you, our members. Many thanks to the Executive Committee and particularly to vice-chairs Jill Tsolinas and Tara Hassan, to our diverse and outstanding board of directors and to the outstanding staff of AME, particularly CEO Johnston.