PROCESSWEST Magazine Online

B.C.’s modern day gold rush

March 1, 2019   Don Horne




After several years of decline, 2018 marked the second consecutive annual increase in mineral and coal exploration expenditure in British Columbia, according to the British Columbia Mineral and Coal Exploration Survey.

“Over the last year we’ve seen continued revitalization of grassroots and early-stage exploration in the province, which accounted for 44 per cent of total exploration in 2018, compared to just 14 per cent five years prior,” says Iain Thompson, EY Canada mining & metals advisory leader. “An ongoing focus on early-stage exploration is critically important to maintain BC competitiveness as we look to establish future mines.”

A joint initiative between the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (EMPR), the Association for Mineral Exploration (AME) and EY, the survey includes insight collected from nearly 300 exploration projects across the province.

Year-over-year growth in exploration across all major commodities and geographic regions in B.C. accelerated sharply in 2018, with a total exploration spend of $330.2 million — a 34 per cent increase over the previous year and a 62 per cent increase from 2016.

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Spotlight on the Golden Triangle 
A resurgence in exploration activity in the northwest of B.C., particularly in the “Golden Triangle,” is also underway. The survey reveals that $165 million of exploration expenditure incurred in the northwest last year — a 66 per cent increase over 2017 ($98.9 million) and nearly double 2016 levels ($85.8 million). The northwest also accounted for half of the total exploration spend in the province in 2018.

British Columbia has excellent mineral potential and investor confidence as an exploration and mining jurisdiction,” says Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. “A resurgence in grassroots and early stage exploration will result in discoveries that will become new mine development projects ensuring that exploration and mining continues to be a significant contributor to the economy of British Columbia.”

“The increase in mineral exploration reaffirms how important the province’s mineral resources are to B.C., Canada and globally as the need to power a modern society with clean, low-carbon energy sources grows,” says Edie Thome, President and CEO, the Association for Mineral Exploration. “Increased exploration spend across commodities made BC the standout performer in Canada in 2018 – a trend we expect to continue.”

Coal rebounds 
Survey results show that coal exploration rebounded in 2018, following a five-year investment lull, largely due to existing producers increasing budgets and new players entering the coal market. Expenditure on coal exploration increased in 2018 by 58 per cent to $50 million, accounting for nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of growth in total exploration spend across the province last year.

The full survey report is available on ey.com/ca/mining here.


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