Hard Rock Dreams
Mining is an important industry in Canada and BC – a fact that was brought home to me this week when I attended the PDAC conference in Toronto, an international mining convention with attendance close to 20,000.
Grizzled old prospectors straight from the bush rubbed shoulders with well-heeled mining executives. Delegate badges read South Africa, Indonesia, Russia, China, India, and Brazil, among many others.
Not surprisingly, the mood was celebratory. Prices for commodities like gold, copper and zinc are reaching or surpassing all-time highs.
Producing mines, while facing increasing costs from fuel and shortages of skilled labour (hence mining wages skyrocketing among the highest in the world), are finding ready markets for their products.
Companies in the exploration stage are snapping up mining claims around the world eager to take part in the exploding growth of the sector.
There to capture their piece of the global mining pie were BC Mining Minister, Bill Bennett and the newly minted Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn.
Minister Bill Bennett is passionate about bringing mining back to life in British Columbia and his ministry’s team was out in full force. From a booth on the trade show floor to hand-shaking at social events, BC appeared very keen to let the world know that mining doesn’t hold pariah status in the province any longer.
And for those of you who chalk BC’s booming mining sector up to high commodity prices – you are only partly correct, as the Minister told me. While the prices played a role to jump-start exploration and development work in the province, focus on streamlining the regulatory burden and opening relationships with First Nations have also been critical.
BC’s share of Canada’s exploration industry has grown from around 5% in 2001 to just under 10% in 2003 – a number that the Minister said is closer to mid-teens today. This increase is a pretty clear indicator that these changes are having an impact. Mining companies deliver $79 million in direct payments to government, not including the spin off effects from operations and workers.
Earlier this year, at the Roundup Mining Conference held January in Vancouver, Minister Bennett announced a job training program focused specifically on mining. These jobs are highly skilled and pay well, averaging $94,500 a year.
Because of these benefits, attracting mining investment is a competitive business and many countries were at the event showcasing their nations, including troubled spots like Nigeria and Mozambique.
But, as one industry leader told me after hearing the Nigerian Minister of Mines speak, “Unfortunately, flying bullets just don’t make for a great mining environment.”
Just one more factor in our favour as BC builds a strong and vibrant mining industry.
(As seen today in 24 Hours)
*Full disclosure - I work for a Vancouver-based mining company*