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Vol. 17, No. 46 Week of November 11, 2012
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

Mining Explorers 2012: Mining booms in British Columbia

Strong demand, competitive provincial policies foster robust sector

Min. Rich Coleman

Special to Mining News

B.C.’s mineral exploration and mining industry is booming, thanks in part to strong demand in Asia. Meeting demand is just one part of fostering a globally competitive sector. Equally important are our policies at home, where strong fiscal management, competitive tax rates, streamlined regulations and good local partnerships are helping to generate billions of dollars’ worth of revenues each year.

Worldwide demand for coal, metals and industrial minerals has increased dramatically and are expected to rise even more. B.C. mining products are essential ingredients to supporting the largest urbanization in human history taking place in China and India.

British Columbia is a leader in mining and mineral production. We are Canada’s single-largest exporter of coal, the largest producer of copper and the only producer of molybdenum.

The 19 major mines provide jobs and opportunities for communities across the Province of British Columbia. The BC Jobs Plan goal of eight new mines and nine expansions is moving forward. Within the past year and a half, B.C. has seen two new major mines begin production, one mine is currently under construction and three more were recently permitted with construction expected to start later this year. Additionally, since the Jobs Plan was released, the Province has approved five major expansions of existing mines.

Mine development and mineral exploration has been a cornerstone of our economy for generations. It takes place in every region of the province and ranges from small, one-person operations to multi-million dollar investment projects.

B.C. is the first province in Canada to share mineral tax revenues for new or expanded mines with First Nations. The Province is committed to continue to consult with First Nations and involving them in resource development.

Our mining companies set the global standard for environmental responsibility in mines here and around the world. B.C. is an international mining centre and now we have an opportunity to finance new mining opportunities to supply the mineral demands of Asia Pacific.

B.C. is well-positioned to benefit from these global demands, with vast reserves of coal, metals and minerals, a highly-skilled workforce and the world’s largest concentration of mining and exploration companies.

In 2011, exploration spending in B.C. exceeded C$460 million, an increase of 35 per cent over 2010. Exploration activity occurs in virtually all areas of B.C., and now accounts for approximately 15 percent of all exploration spending in Canada. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that overall exploration investment continues to increase throughout every region in the years ahead.

With mineral and coal reserves hidden underground, access to land is essential to their discovery and development. The government works with communities, First Nations, industry and others to maintain security of tenure and access to land for mineral exploration. There will be a provincial review of existing mineral and coal land reserves to determine if more land can be made available for exploration.

As it has committed in the BC Jobs Plan, the Province is working to make regulatory processes smarter and more efficient while maintaining high safety and environmental standards. This includes developing a coordinated, transparent permitting and approval process with clear timelines for all industrial projects, including mineral exploration and mine developments. The Province reaffirmed its commitment to reducing red tape in 2012. Progress on regulatory accountability is reported annually.

The B.C. government will review and develop regulations to exempt low-risk exploration and mining activities from requiring Mines Act permits while maintaining health, safety and environmental standards. And will work with the federal government to eliminate duplication in environmental assessments.

Geoscience BC is an industry-led organization with a mandate to collect, interpret and deliver geoscience data and expertise to promote investment in mineral exploration and development. Since it was launched in 2005, the government has supported Geoscience BC through a series of grants totaling nearly C50 million.

To make the most of these advantages, we will move quickly and decisively to leverage today’s high commodity prices and gain a competitive edge over other global mining jurisdictions.

The Province is ready to capitalize on high commodity prices and global demand for minerals and coal. We will be promoting B.C.’s strong fiscal policies (e.g., tax regime, incentive programs) to potential mineral exploration and mining investors.

B.C. competes with jurisdictions worldwide, and one of our biggest assets is stability – we have a stable political climate, a steady supply of goods and services, vast mineral reserves, and a fiscally responsible government.

B.C. enjoys an AAA credit rating thanks to responsible budgeting and an ongoing commitment to encouraging economic growth through common-sense regulation, competitive taxation and policies supporting new business development and inviting new investment. These advantages are at the heart of our strategy for the mining sector.

Mineral exploration, mining and related sectors provide long-term, family supporting jobs and versatile career options to tens of thousands of British Columbians, and will provide employment for many more in the future. The mining sector, like almost every other sector, faces a series of challenges in making sure it has the right people, with the right skills, in the right places.

Our province facilitates skills development in mineral exploration and mining in a number of ways, but even with a multitude of programs in place, B.C. may not have enough workers to fill job openings over the next decade. Along with developing the skills of British Columbians, the Province will welcome and integrate skilled workers from other provinces and countries to help keep B.C.’s economy growing.

B.C.’s Pacific Gateway Alliance, a public-private partnership, is delivering billions of dollars’ worth of improvements to our transportation infrastructure, making our province the gateway of choice for trade between North America and Asia. B.C.’s ports are even more attractive to Canadian and international investors as the Province recently capped the municipal port property tax rates.

The strength of our industry results from B.C.’s global competitiveness, with our location, wealth of resources and favorable policies making British Columbia a desirable place to invest, explore and develop mineral resources.

The Hon. Rich Coleman was appointed minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas and Minister Responsible for Housing and Deputy Premier of the Province of British Columbia Sept. 5. He was re-elected for a fourth term as MLA for Fort Langley-Aldergrove in 2009.

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