As a result of having virtually no access to venture capital, the strength, resiliency and experience of the industry were put to the test in 2013. And not surprisingly, we rose to the challenge. The industry is well acquainted with the cyclical nature of the business, and many AME BC members have been taking this opportunity to prepare for the next upswing in the markets. While most have made changes to their exploration programs and reduced spending for the short term, it rarely dampens their optimism for the future – an optimism that was clearly evident at Mineral Exploration Roundup 2014, where we hosted more than 6,600 people from 37 countries in our final year at The Westin Bayshore. Because of this optimistic spirit – combined with experience, creative thinking and a determined mindset – many advanced projects in B.C. were able to make significant progress last year.
B.C.’s exploration expenditures were estimated to be $476 million in 2013 – reduced from the record high of $680 million in 2012, but still the second-highest number on record. Internationally, B.C. is increasingly seen as a safe haven for investment in mineral exploration compared with other jurisdictions because of its mineral development potential, supportive government, infrastructure and improvements in permitting. It’s estimated that B.C. attracted nearly 20 per cent of the exploration spending in Canada in 2013, compared to just six per cent in 2001. On top of that, we expect to see continued strong demand from Asia for B.C.’s natural resources, such as copper, gold and steel-making coal.
But we must never lose sight of the fact that having access to land and sustained investment in grassroots exploration and geoscience are required to discover rare and valuable new deposits, which may eventually lead to the opening of new major mines in British Columbia, such as Mt. Milligan. The $1.5-billion copper and gold mine was opened with great enthusiasm by Thompson Creek Metals Company in 2013, employing 350 people north of Prince George.
The industry will be further buoyed in 2014 by the opening of B.C.’s next major copper and gold mine, Red Chris, owned by Imperial Metals Corporation. Also very exciting, the 287-kV Northwest Transmission Line is under construction by BC Hydro with a planned completion date of May 2014. This nation-building infrastructure, borne of the determined advocacy efforts of the Northwest Power Line Coalition, will bring much-needed electricity to northern B.C. and significantly reduce the region’s reliance on diesel-generated power in the future.
Importantly, building positive relationships with First Nations is integral to successful and responsible mineral and coal exploration and development. In many ways, B.C. is a model for how industry, government and First Nations are working together to address challenges, create business ventures and sign economic development agreements that provide significant benefits, such as skills training and jobs for First Nations, as well as providing more certainty and predictability for the industry. AME BC recently showcased this leadership at Mineral Exploration Roundup, where we released the Aboriginal Engagement Guidebook, held an aboriginal engagement forum and hosted aboriginal leaders and businesses in the Gathering Place pavilion.
We are all fortunate to have a government that supports the advancement of responsible mineral exploration and development. An estimated 30,000 people are employed in mineral exploration, mining and related sectors in more than 50 communities across B.C. We are renowned as the global centre for mineral exploration and development, and the province is well positioned to take full advantage of its geographic position on Canada’s Pacific coast. Strengthening demand from Asia for B.C.’s natural resources will continue to attract investment and be a key catalyst for our economy in 2014. And members of AME BC will continue to take great pride in discovering and developing these resources responsibly to the benefit of every citizen of the province.
AME BC is a strong advocate for mineral exploration and development that takes place in B.C., but we also celebrate the achievements of B.C.-based members who explore elsewhere. After all, the majority (945 out of 1,616) of the mineral exploration and mining companies listed on the TSX and TSX Venture exchanges are headquartered in British Columbia. And two-thirds of the equity capital raised on the TSX Venture Exchange in 2013 ($2.6 billion out of $3.9 billion) was raised by B.C.-based companies.
Accordingly, this issue focuses on the province of Saskatchewan – from the early exploration and development in the 1940s and 1950s in the Beaverlodge area to the latest discoveries. Saskatchewan is known for safe and environmentally and socially responsible exploration for uranium, and we take a look at how Nunavut is also attracting interest in uranium exploration. The spring issue is also an opportunity to take a look back at the awards presented at Roundup. In keeping with the Saskatchewan theme, our safety feature focuses on Safe Day Everyday Gold Award recipient BHP Billiton Canada Inc., and our profile is on Colin Spence Award recipients Ben and Garrett Ainsworth. On behalf of the staff and board of AME BC , I thank the many hundreds of dedicated volunteers of AME BC, and wish you a successful spring 2014 and a safe day, every day, wherever this message finds you!