While grassroots mineral exploration activity appears to be down in 2012 compared with 2011, there were many advanced exploration projects including New Gold’s Blackwater (Stock Profile – TSX:NGD), Pretium’s Brucejack (Stock Profile – NYSE:PVG & TSX:PVG), Seabridge’s KSM (Stock Profile – TSX:SEA) and several coal projects in British Columbia that may strongly boost the exploration expenditures for 2012 into record-breaking territory.
Commensurately, we should see B.C.’s share of the total investment in mineral exploration in Canada increase as well. These notable highlights, though, are in sharp contrast with the tough venture market conditions, due largely to the volatile global economy, that so many B.C.-based junior exploration & mining companies have faced this past year.
As we note at the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC), explorers and developers are competing internationally for investment and the best indicator of successful mineral exploration and development is seeing a new mine open. The widely held dream of so many explorers (and investors) of moving a prospective discovery through exploration, permitting and into construction and production is becoming a reality in B.C. Take for example New Gold’s (Stock Profile – TSX:NGD) re-opening of the New Afton mine in mid-2012, and the number of new mines that are under construction across the province, such as Thomson Creek Metals’ Mount Milligan project (Stock Profile – TSX:TCM) and Imperial Metals’ Red Chris project (Stock Profile – TSX:III).
These new mining projects are a major boost to the industry and to the B.C. economy. Still, the industry, investors and government should not lose sight of the need to find the next new mineable deposit, which can only happen through exploration. If we’ve learned anything from mineral exploration cycles, it’s that we can’t stop investing in, and planning for, the timely development of B.C.’s mineral resources to coincide with worldwide commodities demand.
According to the B.C. government, over 335 Notice of Work permits received approval for exploration in 2012. Importantly, the government is also reviewing regulations to exempt low-risk exploration and mining activities from requiring Mines Act permits.
Furthermore, the federal government and B.C. are working to develop a single, effective environmental assessment process, which industry fully supports assuming environmental standards are stringent, fair and science-based. AME BC members were also pleased to see that the B.C. government had moved their regional geologists back into the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which is an acknowledgement of geologists and their important role in government.
While we know that permitting issues still remain for some AME BC members, B.C. has been able to demonstrate that its modern-day “gold” rush for base and precious metals and coal is indeed real. The fact is that great mineral and coal resources occur in British Columbia and responsible explorers and developers from around the globe know this to be true. B.C. is under-explored and vast, covering over 944,700 square kilometres, an area larger than the State of Texas; or, France and Germany combined. It’s important to remember that while explorers require access to large areas to search for elusive new deposits, actual exploration and mining in B.C. has used much less than one percent of the provincial land base, or an area smaller than Greater Victoria (540 square kilometres).
And the opportunity of sharing benefits from responsible mineral and coal exploration and development of the land with local and aboriginal communities throughout B.C. is real and significant. In fact, B.C. is leading the way internationally with examples of resource revenue sharing agreements with First Nations and we expect to hear of more such positive agreements announced in 2013.
AME BC’s annual conference, Mineral Exploration Roundup 2013, returns to the Westin Bayshore, January 28 to 31, during B.C’s annual Mineral Exploration Week. This year’s theme is “Resources for Life: Digging Deeper.” Roundup is held annually in Vancouver, which is home to 1,000 mineral exploration and mining companies, as well as 2,400 international service consultants and supplier companies supporting the sector in technical, legal and financial affairs.
Confirmed keynote speakers at Roundup 2013 include top executives from companies such as New Gold, Hunter Dickinson, Teck Resources, Agnico-Eagle Mines and Franco-Nevada Corporation. To learn more about Roundup 2013 – CLICK HERE.