Members of AME BC with experience in the industry understand and appreciate that today’s challenges are often tomorrow’s opportunities. Indeed, a feeling of optimism at AME BC’s Mineral Exploration Roundup 2015 conference, certainly helped in part by the efforts led by our Roundup Organizing Committee and staff, but also brought to the conference by the more than 6,700 participants who arrived from 35 countries.
Despite the current slowdown, mineral exploration and development activity continues to move forward in B.C. at many advanced projects, such as at KSM, Brucejack, Blackwater, Red Chris and Schaft Creek. Mineral exploration expenditures in B.C. in 2014 were $338 million, and although this is down compared to the record-breaking years of 2013 and 2012, it is estimated that B.C. attracted 21 per cent of the exploration spending in Canada last year, compared to 11 per cent during the global recession in 2008-09 and just six per cent in 2001. The investment is coming from those who understand the industry’s longterm prospects and its proven record of achieving significant returns over time. The world’s population is steadily increasing and becoming more urban, with a growing middle class that will continue to demand things made from metals and minerals.
One of the best indicators of success in exploration is seeing discoveries move through to mine development. And in recent years, we have seen a number of new major metal mines constructed in B.C., including the Copper Mountain copper-gold mine in 2011, the New Afton copper-gold mine in 2012 and the Mt. Milligan copper-gold mine in 2013. And as of February 2015, the mill at the Red Chris mine is being commissioned. Today, there are hundreds of mineral exploration projects and many advanced mine projects underway in B.C.
It is no coincidence, then, that with such activity and exceptional mineral wealth comes a plethora of expertise to support exploration and development. British Columbia has the largest concentration of exploration companies and geoscientists in the world. Through the downturn, out of all Toronto Stock Exchange- and TSX Venture Exchange listed mineral exploration and mining companies, 58 per cent are headquartered in British Columbia. B.C. is also home to global leaders in academic and applied research with UBC’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit, Geoscience BC and the British Columbia Geological Survey, to name just a few.
Along with being renowned as the assaying capital of the world, there are more than 2,000 exploration and development service and supply companies, including legal and accounting firms, that call this province home. This extensive business cluster means the industry is at the forward edge of exploration practices – allowing for smarter, more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally conscientious projects.
Not only does B.C. have all these world-class companies, people and resources, it also has the infrastructure to support mineral exploration and development. British Columbians are served by a well-maintained water, rail and road network connecting us to the rest of Canada and to the United States, the world’s largest economy. And the coastline is dotted with deep-sea ports that are natural gateways to resource-hungry economies in Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea, China and India. The opening of the Northwest Transmission Line last summer, and the provincial government’s recent decision in December to proceed with the construction of the Site C dam and hydroelectric power generation project in northeastern B.C. will provide clean energy to our growing urban populations. They will also help mineral explorers and developers attract investment and meet power demands for their projects at lower costs.
This issue of Mineral Exploration, in fact, is focused on the power line – the result of years of advocacy by AME BC and industry, community and First Nation partners, and the mineral development projects in its vicinity. We also take a look at other projects, such as Blackwater and Kemess Underground, that are setting the bar for successful Aboriginal engagement, and leaders such as Canadian Mining Hall of Fame inductee Peter Bradshaw, who continues exploring in B.C. at First Point Minerals’ Decar nickel-iron alloy project.
It is true the industry has been affected by the current cyclical downturn in global markets and metal prices. Companies have been scaling back their operations to adjust to the venture capital crisis and lower commodity prices. At the same time, many are preparing for future growth through strategic planning and investments. As this issue of Mineral Exploration demonstrates, there are many experienced companies and excellent projects in B.C. that continue to work and even advance in these tough times. They know better than anyone else that what goes down must eventually come up. So when the minerals cycle enters its inevitable upswing, B.C. will be very well positioned, as it rightfully should be, at the top of the list of places to responsibly explore for the mineral resources that the world needs.
On behalf of the staff and board of AME BC, I thank the many hundreds of dedicated volunteers of AME BC and I wish you a prosperous spring season and a safe day, every day, wherever this message finds you!