Smithers Interior News Editorial

Smithers Interior News Editorial

Mining is important

More money is spent in Smithers on exploration than any other municipality in B.C.

Smithers does not look much like a mining town, but make no mistake, it is. May is mining month, so what better time to take stock of just how important mining is to the local economy.

In 2020 (the last year for which statistics are available) mineral exploration companies spent an estimated $105.2 million in Smithers, the most of any municipality in the province.

That is nearly double the spending in the second-ranked municipality (Vancouver).

It is 52 per cent of what was spent in the entire northwest region.

The northwest led the province overall with more than half the spending in the province at $225 million. Other northwest towns that made the Top 10 municipalities were Stewart at number 5 ($30 million), Burns Lake at number 8 ($19.7 million) and Terrace at number 9 ($19 million).

Turning to actual mining operations, two northwest mines alone, Red Chris and Brucejack, accounted for $1 billion of B.C.’s $9 billion total gross mining revenues.

Kitimat was the 10th ranked municipality in the province for mine operator expenditures at $86 million.

Suffice it to say, the northwest is a revenue-generating powerhouse for the province.

Of course, our communities benefit directly from that spending, but, our municipalities, which provide our local services, don’t see any of that revenue.

To be fair, that is not entirely true. The province does hand out grants, which are undoubtedly partially funded by mining and exploration revenue.

It is high time, though, to put an end to that paternalistic and politically-driven practice of forcing municipal leaders to go cap-in-hand to the province every time they want to complete a project.

Two weeks ago in Terrace, members of the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (18 northwest municipalities and three regional districts) met with municipal affairs minister Nathan Cullen and provincial government representatives.

The idea is to negotiate a revenue-sharing deal that Premier John Horgan committed to in 2019.

It is only fair that the communities affected by big industrial projects, reap at least some of the taxation benefits in a reliable, no-strings-attached transfer of funds.

Let’s get on with it, already.