The mining industry is gathering in Cranbrook for the next few days as the biennial Minerals South Conference and Trade Show hosted by the East Kootenay Chamber of Mines gets underway.
The event will feature three days of seminars from local and regional professionals in the industry, while an educational component will also include elementary students checking out the trade show booths and doing some hands-on activities.
Jason Jacob, the president of the East Kootenay Chamber of Mines, notes that even though it’s a conference that happens every two years, it’s a great networking opportunity.
“Basically, it’s just for stimulation in the industry, exchanging ideas. The conference is to bring all the brains of the industry together in a smaller conference,” said Jacob.
A small sampling of personalities and businesses will be present with keynote addresses featuring Mike Hambalek of Caliper Machines and Hydraulics, Mike Keefer of Keefer Ecological and Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt.
Jacob adds that there are many facets of the industry that will be on hand.
“We have exploration companies, then you have drilling companies, geologists that do their services for the industry.
There will be talks on properties that are being developed right at this point. Some of them are ideas of a potential for properties, so they’re kind of peddling their properties, but they’re all really informative and lots of information is exchanged.
Mining has been an integral part of the regional economy for over a hundred years, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon, added Jacob.
While most people immediately think of the Elk Valley and Teck Coal when it comes to mining in the East Kootenay, there are lots of other success stories and projects on the go.
Jacob lists a couple others, such as Baymag, which mines magnesite ore near Radium Hot Springs and CertainTeed Gypsum which mines gypsum near Windermere.
Other projects are also in the works, however, access to capital financing is tough in the current economic climate, Jacob said.
“Right now, it’s in a bit of a down cycle. In 2011, we were at a high cycle, lots of activity, lots of money flowing into the industry,” Jacob said. “Right now, we’re in a bit of a down cycle; there’s money out there but nobody wants to spend it, so the resource companies are really nickel-and-diming the projects.
“It’s hard to raise money right now for the projects.”
There are a few properties closer to Cranbrook that exploration companies are looking at, while MGX Minerals also recently announced their intention to purchase the former Tembec sawmill site and redevelop it as a processing facility to transport their products.
“So we have lots of exploration happening, it’s just getting the capital, and that’s the big thing,” continued Jacob. “So if those properties do shore up to what they could potentially be, and do turn into producing mines, the job creation in the area is going to be a ten-fold.
“It doesn’t have to take much of a mine to generate a lot of money for a community. That’s one thing we’ve been lacking since the Sullivan shut down.
“We’re a bit spoiled in this area because we went from the Sullivan [closing] to the coal mines really kicking into high gear and their expansion plans are still online.”
The conference and trade show, featuring 18 booths representing a variety of industry groups and businesses, will be running 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Nov. 3-5 at the Heritage Inn and is open to the public.