The head of the association representing B.C.’s mining industry says a new survey shows the public digs the industry because of its role in fighting climate change.
A province-wide survey by Spark*Insights and Abacus Data on behalf of the Mining Association of British Columbia found 73 per cent want to see the province become a world leader in so-called critical minerals essential to modern technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles that that help fight climate change.
Michael Goehring, President and CEO of MABC, said the survey conducted in January 2023 shows the public recognizes the importance of critical minerals across every region, demographic group and political leanings.
“The need for critical minerals has changed the conversation on mining,” he said. “Today, British Columbians see responsible mining as a way to grow our economy and fight climate change.”
Support for B.C. becoming a leader in critical minerals is highest in northern British Columbia (79 per cent) and among NDP voters with 83 per cent, ahead of BC Liberals (United) voters (72 per cent) and BC Greens (64 per cent). BC Liberals (United) have a more positive view of a mining overall as NDP voters (78 per cent) and BC Greens (75 per cent).
The federal government has recognized 31 critical minerals, with 21 already produced in Canada, many of them in British Columbia. They include familiar ones like aluminum, cobalt, copper and nickel but also lesser known ones like antimony, molybdenum and tantalum.
These lesser-known ones may break tongues, but they have geostrategic value because of their use in high-end industries that are increasingly the subject of great-power rivalries between the western world, China, Russia and other emerging powers in the Global South.
Western countries without secure, steady access to those critical minerals are currently scrambling for them, opening up opportunities for Canada generally and British Columbia specifically. Provincial and federal decision-makers have been making additional investments to enhance these opportunities, with B.C. spending $6 million over three years on its Critical Minerals Strategy.
It aims to stimulate economic development by increasing access to geoscience and assessing the potential for critical minerals processing and manufacturing.
This figure, though, pales in comparison to private sector investment. Figures peg the value of mineral production in B.C. at record $18.2 billion for 2023 thanks in part to rising demand for copper and metallurgical coal among other key exports with several new mines set to open.
According to the survey for MABC, more than eight out 10 British Columbians (82 per cent) have positive feelings about the mining sector, because of its economic importance and 72 per cent prefer to see the provincial government take steps to encourage more investment and jobs in mining.
Support for more mining is the lowest among BC Greens with 56 per cent with BC Liberals (United) leading the way with 85 per cent. Sixty-nine per cent of surveyed New Democrats also favour more mining.