Courtesy Jake Jacob B.C.’s Mining Minister Bill Bennett

Courtesy Jake Jacob B.C.’s Mining Minister Bill Bennett

Bennett down east to attract mining investment

Energy and Mines Minister opens up Toronto Stock Exchange, delivers keynote speech to the Toronto Board of Trade.

B.C. is open for business.

That’s the message that Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett brought to Ontario as he opened up the Toronto Stock Exchange and delivered a keynote speech to the Toronto Board of Trade.

Bennett acknowledged that commodity prices are low right now, but added that if you want to get investment, you have to go out and make your case for it.

“Today’s world is so bloody competitive, they [investors] can take their money and go anywhere they want — they can go to Chile, Peru or Mongolia or Africa or Quebec or Manitoba or Ontario,” Bennett told the Townsman.

“We want them to choose B.C. and you have to go out and work to get that investment and those jobs that will come if we can convince these people to come to B.C.”

With industry representatives in tow from the Association of Mining in British Columbia (AMBC) and Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC), Bennett opened the Toronto Stock Exchange before delivering his speech to investors, explorers, developers, lawyers and large banking firms.

“We’ve got low taxes, we’ve got good permitting processes, we’ve got great infrastructure, we’ve got good highways, we’ve got good ports to get their products overseas to Asia, an educated workforce, an under-explored province in terms of our geology — there are lots and lots of discoveries yet to be made out there,” said Bennett.

Much has been made of falling oil prices, which is currently at $46/barrel but the mining industry is largely unaffected by the price plunge. Alberta Premier Jim Prentice is warning that the low price of oil will have an adverse impact on the province’s finances.

“We’re not nearly as hard-hit by low oil prices as, for example, Alberta and Saskatchewan are. Alberta will not balance their budget this year,” said Bennett. “They didn’t last year, they won’t this year, and it’s going to be very difficult for them. There’s even some talk about them going into recession.

“For us, the mining industry obviously likes it when gas prices are lower, so lower oil prices — to the mining industry — is not in itself a bad thing. We’re also helped right now by the dollar, the difference between the Canadian and U.S. dollar. Our dollar is down in value and that makes it easier for foreign companies to buy Canadian products.”

While Alberta is facing challenges from the turmoil in the oil industry, B.C.’s mining sector is relatively stable in the face of low commodity prices, said Bennett.

“It’s probably doubly difficult for jurisdictions to attract investment, so what I heard today was, ‘It’s a good thing you’re here because we’re going to go to a jurisdiction where we think we’re appreciated’,” said Bennett.

“These people are spending in the hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a mine and so they feel like they do want to be respected, they want to know that they’re in a safe political jurisdiction.”

The value of mineral and coal production in B.C. increased by almost 150% from $2.9 billion in 2001 to nearly $7 billion in 2013. There are currently six coal mines and 10 operating metal mines, along with hundreds of aggregate pits and quarries and more than 30 industrial minerals mines across the province.

Since 2011, five new mines have opened in B.C. and there are over  30 major mine and expansion proposals currently in the environmental assessment and permitting processes.