To a non-geologist onlooker, Rock Talk may cause eyes to glaze with an abundance of technical jargon.
However the annual Smithers-based conference on mineral exploration and mining had some rocking good news.
Christine Ogryzlo, communications director for the Smithers Exploration Group, said that there are two main things that people in the Bulkley Valley should know about the industry this year.
“First of all, northwestern British Columbia is the busiest part of this province as a dense area for mineral exploration. In 2011, half of the expenditures on mineral exploration took place in northwestern British Columbia. There was a record $220 million spent on exploration…That’s pretty impressive,” she said.
The other thing that people should know is that Smithers itself has a “critical mass” of professionals and support companies for the industry.
“Smithers plays a very important role in the projects that are all the way…to the Yukon border.”
Smithers continues to be an attractive town for the industry with the abundance of professionals and also the well-serviced airport.
Ogryzlo also said that there is no reason to expect the high level of spending on exploration for the region to go down anytime soon.
“That’s because of the driving of the commodity prices. Commodity prices for copper, for gold, any of the precious metals, are at record highs,” she said.
In regional geologist Jeff Kyba’s presentation he pointed out that the $220 million spent in the northwest is an increase of $48 million from 2010, and includes at least 54 drilling projects and 21 projects with over $2 million in expenditures.
In the Omenica region, exploration spending also grew to $71.5 million, according to the report of John DeGrace, a contraction regional geologist based in Prince George. That is an increase from $33 million in 2010.
Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach thinks that Smithers is poised to benefit from industry activity in the coming years.
He added that the town is lucky to have the Smithers Exploration Group to promote exploration activity in the area.
Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson, also the official opposition’s mining critic, said that he will take mining issues to the legislature and will be questioning the government on priority spending for the mining sector.
Among the focuses for Donaldson is development a framework around First Nation consultation. As deputy chair for the Select Standing Committee on Finance, he said he heard om a lot of people in the private sector saying they want the government to establish more certainty over their role in consultation.
He’ll also be questioning the government over budget estimates for the environmental assessment office.
He said that it appears the EAO is not getting an increase to its budget this year, which Donaldson finds troubling as there is a potential of $32 billion in investments for the north in the next few years. No more funding could create a backlog of permitting, he said.
“Nobody can argue against looking for increased efficiencies but if it comes to cutting corners that’s going to lead to unnecessary delays so we need to have public confidence in the environmental assessment process,” he said.
This was the 23rd year for the Rock Talk conference.