The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

Mining Explorers 2015: Mining plays key role in British Columbia

Industry investment spurs development of new mines in northern region

Northern British Columbia accounts for two-thirds of the province's landmass and plays an important role in our provincial economy. In 2014, an estimated $338 million was spent on mining exploration projects across B. C.; nearly half of which took place in northern B. C.

Proposed mine developments in northern B. C. have the potential to create billions of dollars in capital investment as well as thousands of family-sustaining jobs throughout B. C., adding to the more than 30,000 people currently employed in mining, mineral exploration and related sectors in over 50 B. C. communities.

Our government is working hard to grow and support this important industry. Since June 2011, five new metal mines have opened in British Columbia, creating more than 1,300 new full-time jobs. Another seven new mines have been approved since the BC Jobs Plan was released in September 2011, and expansions of seven existing major mines also have been approved.

Most recently, the Province issued a Mines Act permit for Pretium Resources Inc.'s Brucejack gold-silver mine in northwestern B.C., after the project received an environmental assessment certificate and the necessary federal approvals. Constructing the mine will create about 900 jobs over two years, and the operation will supply about 500 jobs during its 18-year operating life, bringing significant economic benefits to northern British Columbia with minimal anticipated environmental impacts.

None of these new mines would exist but for the efforts of the exploration sector. Exploration in B. C. remains strong despite tough times for the mining industry and low commodity prices. In 2012 and 2013, more than C$1 billion was invested in exploration, and B.C. now accounts for over 21 percent of exploration spending in Canada- up from 6 percent in 2001. B.C. also remains a global center for exploration companies, with over 50 percent of mineral exploration and mining companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange headquartered in B.C.

We've also invested to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to power future mining development in the north.

In July 2014, the Northwest Transmission Line was completed.

The NTL delivers affordable, reliable and clean power to an area that's never before had access to the grid, unlocking the economic potential of northwest British Columbia and supporting new jobs and investment in mining.

The construction of the NTL has opened up many opportunities for mining in northwest British Columbia; currently there are 10 mines either operating or in advanced stages of development in the northwest region, and many of them would not be possible without the additional power available in the region from the new Northwest Transmission Line.

Our significant achievements have only been made possible through a tremendous amount of collaboration between industry and First Nations. The mining industry employs more Aboriginal people than any other industry in B.C., and the Province continues to develop and maintain the positive relationships with First Nations that leads to successful resource development. B.C. is the first province in Canada to share direct provincial mining tax revenue generated from new mines or mine expansions with First Nations, creating certainty for industry while demonstrating that responsible mining is possible through the development and maintenance of long-lasting relationships built on trust.

Not only are we listening to First Nations in B.C., but we have been working on furthering our relationships with our neighbors in the trans-boundary areas of Alaska and Montana, who also have an interest in B.C.'s mining developments.

The failure of the tailings storage facility at the Mount Polley mine last summer was a wakeup call for our province, the mining industry and governments throughout Canada and around the world.

Since then, British Columbians and Alaskans have brought forward many concerns and questions about B.C.'s mining regulations.

This is why we recently traveled to southeast Alaska to meet with state officials, Alaska tribal governments and representatives from commercial fishing, tourism and environmental groups, to hear their concerns and discuss B.C.'s environmental assessment and permitting processes.

We took time to address some common misconceptions Alaskans have about British Columbia's mining policies and practices, and communicated the message that the protection of our shared trans-boundary waterways is a shared concern.

We will continue to work with state officials, Alaska tribal governments and interest groups to give Alaskans more direct access to the information they need to determine whether or not B.C. is doing a good job protecting our shared environment. This is something we have committed to try to resolve with a memorandum of understanding, which we hope to complete in the coming months.

Our government is leading Canada in making changes to how mining is done, and we will continue to work hard to ensure our policies are the best in the world. Combined with our rich mineral deposits, world-class infrastructure, outstanding public geoscience data and abundant sources of clean and affordable energy, B.C. will continue to be an extremely attractive place for mining investors.

I am delighted by the continued success of the North of 60 Mining News magazine. Together, government, First Nations and the mining industry can continue to build a thriving resource development sector in the north and across British Columbia. Mining is critical to this province's economic future, and we're working hard to ensure it remains a vital, sustainable industry.


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