Much of the spectacular scenery that makes British Columbia a beautiful place to live and work can be attributed to its unique and dynamic geology. An important and significant benefit of this ever-evolving natural landscape is the wealth of mineral treasures that have formed as result of geological activity. And B.C.’s geographically favourable position next to the Pacific Ocean makes it a globally important trading province for the citizens of B.C. and the rest of Canada.
From the rich zinc-lead-silver deposits of the southeast, such as the famously large, high grade and long-lasting Sullivan mine deposit near Kimberley, to the Golden Triangle in the northwest which hosts among the highest number of, and richest, copper-gold deposits on Earth, every region in B.C. is fortunate to have world-class mineral resources. But we must not take this fact for granted. The Golden Triangle, made famous by the Eskay Creek gold-silver deposit, is home to significant base and precious metal projects such as KSM, Brucejack, Schaft Creek and Galore Creek, among many more. The completion of the Northwest Transmission line (which will power the soon-to-open Red Chris copper-gold mine) has provided much needed infrastructure to this region, while mineral exploration and development is expected to continue to expand. And the potential of the Site C dam and hydroelectric project in the northeast to provide clean, low-cost power across the province will also act as a major catalyst to attract investment in mineral exploration and development for generations.
The Kootenays have always been attractive to prospectors and mineral developers. The Cranbrook area, as well as the Grand Forks, Rossland, Slocan, Silverton, New Denver, Kaslo, Revelstoke, Castlegar and Nelson-Ymir-Salmo areas, have a much deserved mineral exploration and development heritage. In recent years, in addition to the ongoing industrious activity of Teck’s zinc and lead smelter in Trail, the Kootenays have seen increased exploration activity with Santa Fe Metals’ Sully and Iron Range projects, Eagle Plains’ Findlay project and Discovery Ventures’ Willa project. These projects have benefited greatly from local community support, with Cranbrook’s East Kootenay Chamber of Mines and Nelson’s Chamber of Mines of Eastern BC leading the way during the annual Minerals South conference.
With such exceptional mineral wealth comes a plethora of expertise to support exploration and development. British Columbia has the largest concentration of exploration companies and geoscientists in the world. It is also home to global leaders in academic research. Along with being renowned as the assaying capital of the world, there are more than 2,000 exploration and development service and supply companies, including legal and accounting firms, that call this province home. This extensive business cluster means the industry is at the forward edge of exploration practices allowing for smarter, more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally conscientious projects.
B.C. also has the infrastructure to support mineral exploration and development. B.C. citizens are served by a well-maintained water, rail and road network connecting us east and west to the rest of Canada and north and south to the United States — the world’s largest economy. And the coastline is dotted with deep-sea ports that are natural gateways to resource-hungry economies in Asian countries.
That advanced exploration work is taking place at historically high levels in B.C. as our province continues to attract significant investment, especially in copper, zinc, gold and silver projects. In 2014 it is estimated that B.C. attracted nearly 21 per cent of exploration spending across Canada, which is up from 11 per cent during the 2008-09 recession.
It is true the industry has been affected by the current cyclical downturn in global markets and metal prices. Companies have been scaling back their operations to adjust to the venture capital crisis and lower commodity prices. At the same time, many are preparing for future growth through strategic planning and investments. That being said, there are many experienced companies and excellent projects that continue to work and advance even in these tough times. They know better than anyone else that what goes down must eventually come up. So when the minerals cycle enters its inevitable upswing, B.C., including the Kootenay region, will be very well positioned, as it rightfully should be, at the top of the list of places to responsibly explore for the mineral riches the world needs.
Gavin C. Dirom is President & CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration BC (AME BC) hosts its Mineral Exploration Roundup 2015 conference in Vancouver from January 26 to 29, 2015. See amebc.ca for details.