Shrinking land base for mineral exploration in B.C. risks industry

By Association for Mineral Exploration BC / January 20, 2016 / / Article Link

The Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC) is calling for action on the part of the Provincial Government in the wake of a new report highlighting the shrinking land base available for the exploration of hidden and valuable minerals in B.C. as well as the increasingly complex government policies that exploration companies are forced to navigate. Without ongoing exploration there can be no new discoveries, and without new discoveries, the future of the industry will be limited. As a result, thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual economic impact could be put at risk.

The report, Framing the Future of Mineral Exploration in British Columbia, prepared by environmental consultant firm, Hemmera, paints a troubling picture about a lack of clarity in land access and use rules as well as the overlapping nature of government regulations. It finds land access for mineral exploration has decreased in B.C., reaching a critical threshold threatening the survival of the industry and by extension, the jobs, families and communities that rely on it.

"Mineral explorers and developers have a proud history of finding critical metals, like copper, and building British Columbia over the past 150 years," said Gavin C. Dirom, President and CEO of AME BC. "The innovative and always evolving exploration industry forms an important R&D function, designing and using technologies and developing expertise that results in not only finding new mineral deposits, but also expanding the world's geological knowledge base for everyone's benefit."

If not addressed, this situation could be devastating for the more than 30,000 British Columbians employed by mineral exploration and development and the many communities around the province that rely on it. This includes Metro Vancouver, which has become a global centre of excellence for the industry and headquarters to approximately 800 exploration and mining companies as well as many others providing a range of technical, legal, accounting and supply services.

With explorable land shrinking at unprecedented rates, fewer jobs will be available and fewer economic opportunities will be created in the future. Given that more than $2.2 billion has been spent on mineral exploration in B.C. since 2010 alone, a cooling of this industry would leave a large hole in the provincial economy.

"Despite a perception that only a small percentage of land is designated as off limits to mineral exploration, the reality is that more than half the province is severely constrained to the industry due to layers of restrictive and sometimes redundant regulations," added Dirom. "We believe that it is possible to have both a strong and active mineral exploration and development industry and a sustainable, healthy environment."

AME BC is calling on government to address the situation, including streamlining and clarifying land use regulations and plans as well as developing a modern decision making process. These changes need to recognize the hidden nature and value of mineral resources compared with surface level natural resource activities and ensure these different values are taken fully into account in land use decisions.

"In order to thrive in B.C., the mineral exploration and development industry requires access to land to discover hidden and valuable mineral resources and certainty to develop those resources should a deposit be found," said Greg Dawson, a geologist conducting exploration in B.C. "These two principles of access and certainty should be integrated into all government land planning processes."

Government action on this urgent issue will help strengthen communities, and ensure a bright future for B.C.'s mineral exploration and development industry and the jobs and families that rely on it.Fact Sheet: Mineral Exploration and Development in British Columbia

More than 30,000 people are employed in mineral exploration, mining and related sectors in B.C.Vancouver is a global centre of excellence with about 800 exploration and mine development companies headquartered in the city and surrounding area. There are even more firms providing technical, legal, accounting and supply services.In 2001, the average mineral exploration and mining industry salary plus benefits was $81,000; in 2013, it was $114,600.Mineral exploration and mining is the largest private employer of First Nations in the province.Mineral exploration and mining activity takes up a very small portion of land. In fact, since the industry began in the province in the 1850s, mineral exploration and mining has disturbed just 0.05 per cent of the B.C. land base. Of that, nearly half of all disturbed land has since been reclaimed.Mineral exploration investment has grown exponentially over the past 15 years. In 2001, exploration spending was $29.1 million (Natural Resources Canada statistics), and in 2014 it was $338 million.In 2014, B.C. accounted for over 21 per cent of all exploration spending in Canada.Since 2010, more than $2.2 billion has been spent on mineral exploration in B.C.

Shrinking land base for mineral exploration in B.C. -Year Exploration SpendingShrinking land base for mineral exploration in B.C. -Year Exploration Spending

The value of mineral and coal production in B.C. was nearly $7 billion in 2014.Mineral exploration has an excellent safety record. The Canadian injury rate is less than half of the rate for all occupations, at 0.65 incidents per 200,000 hours. The average worker in mineral exploration and mining can expect to work for an entire career without a lost-time injury.

Source: British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines

Read the full Land Access and Use Report here:

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