It is with some nostalgia that we look back at 2012, a year of pride and celebration. We wrapped-up a year of special initiatives to mark our association’s 100th anniversary with a gala event on November 27 in Vancouver, where more than 500 industry professionals and leaders were on hand to toast British Columbia’s vibrant mineral exploration and development industry. We also released Into the Mountains, our special anniversary book commemorating the first 100 years of our B.C.-based association and industry. As for the overall state of the industry in B.C., while grassroots mineral exploration activity appears to be down in 2012 compared with 2011, there were many advanced exploration projects (such as New Gold’s Blackwater, Pretium’s Brucejack and Seabridge’s KSM) and several coal projects in British Columbia that may strongly boost the exploration expenditures for 2012 into record-breaking territory. Commensurately, we should see B.C.’s share of the total investment in mineral exploration in Canada increase as well. These notable highlights, though, are in sharp contrast with the tough venture market conditions, due largely to the volatile global economy, that so many B.C.-based junior exploration & mining companies have faced this past year.
As explorers and developers competing internationally for investment, we know that the best indicator of successful mineral exploration and development is seeing a new mine open. The widely held dream of so many explorers (and investors) of moving a prospective discovery through exploration, permitting and into construction and production is becoming a reality in B.C. Take for example New Gold’s re-opening of the New Afton Mine in mid-2012, and the number of new mines that are under construction across the province, such as Thomson Creek Metals’ Mount Milligan and Imperial Metals’ Red Chris projects. These new mining projects are a major boost to the industry and to the B.C. economy. Still, the industry, investors and government should not lose sight of the need to find the next new mineable deposit, which can only happen through exploration. If we’ve learned anything from mineral exploration cycles, it’s that we can’t stop investing in, and planning for, the timely development of B.C.’s mineral resources to coincide with worldwide commodities demand. At AME BC, we believe there needs to be a renewed emphasis on increasing grassroots mineral exploration and geoscience, which is the critical research activity necessary to find new discoveries and sustain the B.C. mining industry for multiple generations.
According to the B.C. government, over 335 Notice of Work permits received approval for exploration in 2012. Importantly, the government is also reviewing regulations to exempt low-risk exploration and mining activities from requiring Mines Act permits. Furthermore, the federal government and B.C. are working to develop a single, effective environmental assessment process, which industry fully supports assuming environmental standards are stringent, fair and science-based. AME BC members were also pleased to see that the B.C. government had moved their regional geologists back into the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which is an acknowledgement of geologists and their important role in government. While we know that permitting issues still remain for some AME BC members, B.C. has been able to demonstrate that its modern-day “gold” rush for base and precious metals and coal is indeed real. The fact is that great mineral and coal resources occur in British Columbia and responsible explorers and developers from around the globe know this to be true. B.C. is under-explored and vast, covering over 944,700 square kilometres, or an area larger than the State of Texas or France and Germany combined. It’s important to remember that while explorers require access to large areas to search for elusive new deposits, actual exploration and mining in B.C. has used much less than one percent of the provincial land base, or an area smaller than Greater Victoria (540 square kilometres). And the opportunity of sharing benefits from responsible mineral and coal exploration and development of the land with local and aboriginal communities throughout B.C. is real and significant. In fact, B.C. is leading the way internationally with examples of resource revenue sharing agreements with First Nations and we expect to hear of more such positive agreements announced in 2013.
Throughout fall of 2012, AME BC continued to strengthen relationships with aboriginal communities, leaders and organizations. Specifically, AME BC has taken the lead and engaged in very positive and mutually respectful discussions with partners from the BC Aboriginal Mine Training Association, Industry Council for Aboriginal Business and the BC First Nation Energy and Mining Council. For the first time ever, these partners are working with AME BC to host an Aboriginal Pavilion at Roundup 2013. As well, AME BC committee members continued the important work of updating our Aboriginal Engagement Toolkit for 2013. Very late in the year was the release of the judge’s decision in the Yukon case brought by the Ross River Dene about consulting prior to staking claims. AME BC will be active in this important matter in 2013. Also in Q4 was the federal government’s announcement that it had selected the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University to lead the establishment of the new Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development in Vancouver. AME BC is a strategic partner in this new institute for extractive industries and development, which will be funded through a $25-million grant from the Canadian International Development Agency.
At this time last year, AME BC initiated a strategic planning process that involved surveying over 600 members, regional exploration groups, industry leaders, and the AME BC Board and management. Feedback consistently reinforced the primary role of the Association to protect and promote the interests of mineral explorers and developers operating, or based, in British Columbia. As an outcome of this process, AME BC will launch its new 5-year Strategic Plan for the years 2013–2017 at Mineral Exploration Roundup. The plan will reinforce and guide AME BC’s work in the following six key areas:
- Successful Exploration. We recognize the need to reduce land use and access restrictions; improve the permitting process, emphasize grassroots exploration and geoscience and address skilled labour shortages.
- Aboriginal Relations and Engagement. We recognize the need to provide clarity and advice to our membership about how to engage with First Nations and to better understand government’s role in their consultation and accommodation of First Nations’ interests.
- Public Awareness and Stakeholder Education. We need to foster and increase understanding of the importance of minerals to people’s lives, and the social and economic benefits of our industry.
- Socially Responsible Exploration. AME BC has a key role to play in the promotion and advocacy of socially responsible mineral exploration and development practices.
- Membership Engagement. We need to ensure our members are informed of our association’s work and to foster mutually beneficial relationship between members.
- Mineral Exploration Roundup. AME BC will maintain the quality of the world’s premier technical mineral exploration conference and use it to showcase British Columbia as the world’s centre of excellence in mineral exploration and development.
AME BC’s annual conference, Mineral Exploration Roundup, returns to the Westin Bayshore, January 28 to 31, 2013 during B.C’s annual Mineral Exploration Week. This year’s theme is “Resources for Life: Digging Deeper.” Roundup is held annually in Vancouver, which is home to 1,000 mineral exploration and mining companies, as well as 2,400 international service consultants and supplier companies supporting the sector in technical, legal and financial affairs. Now in its 30th year, Roundup showcases the latest Canadian and global discoveries, geoscience, Aboriginal relations, health and safety issues, corporate social responsibility, and commodities trends. Among the many expert technical session and political speakers expected, the confirmed keynote speakers at Roundup 2013 include top executives from companies such as New Gold, Hunter Dickinson, Teck Resources, Agnico-Eagle Mines and Franco-Nevada Corporation. To register for these keynote events and Roundup 2013, please visit www.amebc.ca/roundup.
On behalf of the staff and board of AME BC, I thank the hundreds of volunteers and almost 5,000 members of the Association for their valuable support and contributions in making AME BC one of the best industry advocacy associations for mineral exploration and development in the world. Finally, please remember to have a safe day, every day, wherever this message finds you! I look forward to seeing you at Roundup 2013!