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B.C. mining, exploration makes resurgence after years of stagnation

March 5, 2018  

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British Columbia’s mineral and coal exploration industry grew last year for the first time since 2012, according to the second annual British Columbia mineral and coal exploration survey conducted by EY, the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources (EMPR) and the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME).

The survey, released today at Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention in Toronto, found that exploration expenditures across BC totaled $246 million in 2017, up $41 million (20 per cent), from the year before.

Gold exploration accounted for $37 million (87 per cent) of that increase, driven by increased activity in the province’s Golden Triangle and Cariboo gold belt regions. Gold’s dominance in B.C. exploration is consistent with the global trend: gold accounted for more than three-quarters of the year-over-year increase in worldwide exploration expenditure in 2017.

“Last year we saw a revitalization of the B.C. exploration industry, primarily due to a stronger Canadian economy and an improved commodity price outlook. And, without the impact of the devastating wildfire season, expenditures would have likely been even higher,” says Iain Thompson, EY Canada Mining & Metals Advisory Services Leader. “Looking ahead, we expect these favourable conditions to extend into 2018.”

Other metals also saw a surge in activity. Exploration expenditure on primary-silver projects more than doubled to $9.8 million, while zinc grew by almost 50 per cent to $8.2 million, driven by increasing prices. Coal exploration, however, decreased by 18 per cent or $7 million. This had a significant impact on the province’s Northeast region, where exploration spend declined by almost 75 per cent to $2.4 million.

By contrast, the province’s Northwest and Southeast regions were hotbeds of exploration activity, accounting for more than three quarters (77 per cent, or $33 million) of the increased overall exploration expenditure.

“The mining industry is critical to the health of the B.C. economy,” says Gordon Clarke, Director, BC Mineral Development Office. “With mining revenues expected to approach $9 billion annually, it’s important to identify new development opportunities and encourage the continued development of a robust exploration industry.”

“It’s reassuring to see exploration spending returning to B.C., particularly as resource depletion returns to the list of industry risks,” says Jonathan Buchanan, Director, Corporate Affairs at AME. “We’re also encouraged to hear survey respondents remain committed to working with First Nations when sourcing new resource deposits to ensure benefits extend to the local or surrounding communities.”

To access the complete report, visit ey.com/ca/bcminingsurvey.

(Ernst & Young)