The annual Association for Mineral Exploration (AME) B.C. Roundup held Jan. 28-31 in Vancouver, had some good news for Smithers and the Northwest.
“In the Northwest particularly, 2018 was a great year,” said Christine Ogryzlo, president of the Smithers Exploration Group (SEG) and a director with AME.
Ogryzlo cited industry statistics that indicated $164 million was spent on exploration in the Northwest last year, compared to $99 million the year before. That represents half of the total dollars spent in the province.
She could not say how much of that benefits Smithers directly, but as a regional industry hub, she said it is no doubt significant.
Overall, she said, the 6,500 conference participants were feeling pretty positive.
“I’d say the mood was on the uptick,” she said. “It is still very difficult for exploration [companies] to go into the field and take a crew with them and do the kind of consultation that they do with First Nations, and of course the exploration and the drilling that follows on that.
“It’s still tough to find money because across the world everyone that has funding to spare is rightly cautious with it, but there is a feeling that the money is coming and that the exploration dollars will be found. I think it was an optimistic, but a cautiously optimistic feeling.”
That optimism was enhanced by Premier John Horgan’s announcement at the beginning of Roundup that the government is making permanent two incentives that were previously only renewed on an annual basis.
Both the mining flow-through share and the B.C. mining exploration tax credits are now something the industry will be able to count on.
Horgan said the reasoning behind the move was that mining is important to the entire province, not just the areas in which it is carried out.
“People often think of mining — certainly in my community on the Island — they think of mining as a rural undertaking,” Horgan said. “Mining is as important to urban British Columbia as it is to rural British Columbia.”
All of this is good news for Smithers, which Ogryzlo noted is well-known in the industry as a hub with the Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources office here; numerous suppliers including Bandstra Transportation, BV Wholesale, Alpine Wiring and Northwest Truck Rentals — who were also at the conference — and several mining company offices including Pretivm’s Brucejack mine and Seabridge’s KSM project.
SEG was busy at Roundup representing all of the businesses in Smithers that have direct and peripheral connections to the industry.
“This year, we distributed 500 directories and spread the word about the critical mass of industry expertise and suppliers in the Bulkley Valley that are available to the industry in the Northwest,” she said.
Another highlight of the conference, Ogryzlo said, was the ever-growing presence of events, projects and collaborations focused on First Nations engagement and participation in the industry.
A pilot project called the B.C. Regional Mining Alliance involves the Tahltan Central Government, Nisga’a Lisims Government, Skeena Resources, GT Gold, IDM Mining, Dolly Varden Silver and the Province.
Another alliance between the Kaska Dene and Tlingit brought 50 students to Roundup to learn first hand about the opportunities the minerals industry might hold for them.
There is also an annual feature of the conference called “The Gathering” that takes place over several days.
“It is an opportunity to talk about the positive agreements and the positive relationships with the First Nations on whose traditional territory companies are exploring,” she said.
Ogryzlo and SEG are now preparing for their own annual conference, Rock Talk 2019, scheduled for Feb. 20 and 21 in Smithers.