As the Association for Mineral Exploration (AME) prepares for its 36th annual Mineral Exploration Roundup conference from Jan. 28 to 31, 2019, we look back on industry successes in 2018 and ahead to the potential for the mineral exploration industry in 2019.
While our members report they continue to be challenged in attracting investment for exploration, we are getting indications that exploration expenses in B.C. increased for a second consecutive year in 2018 — above the $246 million spent on projects in 2017.
Gold continued to be a major focus for explorers, particularly in the Golden Triangle, and exploration for other materials has been buoyed by increasing projected demand for the metals that will fuel our low-carbon future. These include the metals for which B.C. is well-known around the world: copper, molybdenum, silver and lead, as well as battery metals, including nickel and cobalt.
We look forward to hearing about the results of these programs at Roundup.
In April 2018, AME collaborated with the B.C. government, the Tahltan central government, Nisga’a Lisims government and several exploration companies to form a pilot initiative named the B.C. Regional Mining Alliance that brings governments and industry together to promote B.C.’s competitive advantages to the global investment community.
The true test of successful mineral exploration and development is the opening of new mines, and in 2018, Coeur Mining’s Silvertip silver-zinc-lead mine in northwest B.C. went into commercial production. This follows the opening of Pretium Resources’ Brucejack gold mine in 2017. Both these high-grade projects are strong signals that exploration leads to successes for our industry, but more importantly for remote communities and Indigenous groups throughout the province that share in the economic and social benefits that responsible development of mineral resources bring.
In addition, IDM Mining received its provincial environmental assessment certificate for its Red Mountain gold project near Stewart, B.C., with a federal environmental assessment decision expected in early 2019.
Looking further ahead into 2019, AME will be in discussions with the provincial government on numerous initiatives that have come into law. One development is the environmental assessment revitalization, which aims to ensure consistent engagement with Indigenous groups earlier, and focuses on consensus-based decision making. The new Environmental Assessment Act, signed in to legislation in November 2018, is designed with more rigorous timelines and aligns well with the federal Impact Assessment Act proposed under Bill C-69.
AME is hopeful that the new provincial legislation will increase certainty for project proponents, increase transparency to the public and further implement the principles within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Another significant piece of legislation that affects our members is the Provincial Governance Act, which was also passed into legislation in the fall. This act will consolidate government oversight of the five professional regulators for engineering and geoscience, forestry, agrology, applied biology, and applied science technology under a new Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance.
AME will work closely with the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC as well as fellow industry organization, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies BC, in ensuring that our members’ views are incorporated into regulations.
On the taxation front, the provincial government is contemplating mechanisms that will increase mineral exploration competitiveness in 2019 and beyond.
At the federal level, our national partners at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada were successful in their lobbying efforts with the federal government, as a five-year extension to the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for investors was granted through 2024.
As most readers will know, Canada is a world leader in ensuring that responsible mineral exploration and development benefit communities and Indigenous groups, and that there is more work to do — both in engaging people that may be affected by, and benefit from, exploration, as well as telling our story to the public.
AME will continue to be active in both these areas in 2019, and we are thrilled to host our seventh annual Gathering Place at Roundup that connects Indigenous and business leaders to share perspectives on how mineral exploration and Indigenous communities can mutually prosper.
We will also continue our work on public engagement in 2019 — through both supporting regional exploration groups in their outreach efforts in local communities around B.C. and organizations such as Britannia Mine Museum and MineralsEd, and in speaking more about mineral exploration to urban audiences as well — at Discovery Day at Roundup and beyond.
By working collaboratively — industry in partnership with governments and Indigenous groups — and communicating widely the necessity of mineral exploration for a low-carbon economy, 2019 shows potential as a pivotal year for mineral exploration in British Columbia. And it all begins at Roundup, where I look forward to seeing you!
— Edie Thome is the president and CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration (AME). AME hosts its annual conference, AME Roundup, in Vancouver under the sails at Canada Place, Jan. 28–31, 2019. Visit roundup.amebc.ca for more information and to register for AME Roundup.