Mineral exploration spending continues to grow in Northwest

Smithers Exploration Group reports ‘good vibe’ at Association for Mineral Exploration Roundup

Mineral exploration is growing again in the Northwest.

Last week, the B.C. Association of Mineral Exploration (AME) held it’s annual conference and the mood was optimistic according to Smithers Exploration Group (SEG) geologist Anastasia Ledwon.

“There was a good vibe this year,” she said. “They moved it a week earlier than they have had it for the past few years so that it overlapped with Cambridge House, which is the investors conference. The trade show was packed, as usual, the talks were very busy.”

The numbers for 2019 back up the optimism. Last year exploration spending in the Northwest reached $180 million, up from $164 million in 2018 and $99 million in 2017.

Spending peaked in 2012 at $285 million then steadily declined, reaching a low of $84 million in 2016.

Ledwon said another positive aspect of the activity in the Northwest is how much of it is early stage and grassroots work at 50 per cent and 29.7 per cent respectively.

AME attributes at least some of the uptick to renewed interest in minerals as step toward building a low carbon economy.

Just prior to Roundup, AME released results of a public opinion poll showing 63 per cent of British Columbians believe the mineral exploration and mining industries have a role to play in reaching the provincial government’s 2040 “zero emissions” target.

“Building a sustainable future that preserves the environment while also being economically robust is important to all British Columbians. That future requires new and innovative technologies that depend on the types of minerals and metals found in BC,” says Kendra Johnston, President and CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C. (AME). “Our industry continues to adhere to and elevate environmental best practices, while searching for the minerals and metals that we all need to live in the technologically advanced world that surrounds us.

The SEG was there again promoting its Northern British Columbia Exploration and Mining Directory, a comprehensive guide to all the businesses in the North connected either directly or indirectly to the industry.

Ledwon, who manages the SEG’s Rock Room, a suite of central interior cordilleran rock samples, also brought some rocks along, which she said were very popular.

“They’re not really the pretty minerals that make it into the museums, but they’re the weathering suites and the leach cap suites, the stuff that we have up that tells you there [was] something there that’s not shiny, that you’re not looking at, you’re looking at the leftover alterations.”

She said conference goers were also excited about a new poster SEG presented.

“Peter Ogryzlo and Tom Richards have been working on a new proposed theory of movement, faulting across the central B.C. part and possibly a different way of looking to trace mineralization and potential deposits, so that was really well received,” she explained.

Overall, 2020 is looking positive, Ledwon believes.

“I had lots of good feedback,” she said. “I had a lot of students coming through looking for work and I was able to point them in the right direction, there’s quite a few companies hiring. I talked to my own clients and companies and they’ve got money in the bank so there’ll be projects going on this year, so there’s lots of excitement around that.”

The big announcement at Roundup this year was the appointment of a new minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources. Bruce Ralston takes over from Michelle Mungall, now minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness.

“We congratulate Minister Ralston on his appointment as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources,” said Kendra Johnston, AME president and CEO. “We are looking forward to working with him in promoting the value of a sustainable, socially and environmentally responsible mineral exploration industry and as the B.C. government continues to implement the actions of the Mining Jobs Task Force.

“We are also looking forward to continuing our relationship with Minister Mungall in her new role in nurturing a competitive mineral exploration industry that supports economic growth for communities in B.C.”

Another good vibe at the conference, Ledwon said, was the atmosphere of collaboration that seems to be developing between government, industry and First Nations.

“It’s nice to see all the stakeholders trying to work together and not being so us and them or adversarial,” she said.

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