Trying out panhandling at Minerals North in Smithers in 2016. (Chris Gareau photo)

Minerals North to draw hundreds

This is second time Houston has hosted northern mining industry.

Houston was a natural fit to be chosen this year as the host community for Minerals North, the annual gathering of the northern minerals industry, said the president of the Minerals North Conference Association, the non-profit society which acts as the overall governing body of the event.

“I think it was their enthusiasm,” said Andrew Webber of Terrace in commenting on the local organizing committee for this year’s gathering which takes place April 25-27.

Houston also fit the association’s goal of locating the conference in different parts of the North each year and assuring that smaller as well as larger communities have a chance to showcase themselves.

“There’s also an intimacy of having Minerals North in a smaller community. People are drawn together in the community simply because it’s smaller. In a larger city, people spread out,” said Webber.

With the accompanying trade show already sold out and the registered delegate count now in the hundreds, Houston as well as surrounding communities will feel the economic impact.

“Burns Lake as well as Smithers, people will be accommodated there,” Webber added.

This year also marks a milestone for the event because this will be the 30th year the northern minerals industry has gathered to forge new connections and renew ones dating back years, and to promote the economic and other benefits the mineral industry provides in northern communities.

The first such gathering took place in Terrace in 1989, although the annual convention did not take on its official name of Minerals North until the third conference was held in Stewart in 1991.

This will be the second time Houston has played host with the first time being in 1997. Smithers and Telkwa co-hosted in 2016.

Webber said little has changed since the first gathering as the intent of drawing together not only the mineral industry but other groups and people with an interest in land use has thrived over the years.

“Minerals North is not a mining conference but a conference about mining,” said Webber in relaying the words of Smithers geologist Hans Smit, a key player in the growth and development of Minerals North since the very beginning.

As such, the conference has seen the growing participation of First Nations over the years as well as various interest groups. It’s also become the ‘go to’ gathering for local, provincial and federal politicians.

“Minerals North gives communities an understanding of how mining companies operate and for the mineral sector, an opportunity to understand communities,” said Webber.

This year’s keynote speaker is Gordon Campbell, the BC Liberal premier of B.C. from 2001 to 2011 who went on to become Canada’s High Commissioner in London and who now lives in Ottawa.

“He’s a great choice. He was the premier when the power line was built up Highway 37 North,” noted Webber of BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, which provides power to the Red Chris mine and communities in the region and which transfers power from run-of-river hydro projects on the Iskut River to the provincial power grid.

While the Minerals North Conference Association is the overall governing body and evaluates bids from communities wishing to host the event, Webber said organizing details rest with the local community committees and it is their hard work each year which makes the annual event a success.

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