The annual Natural Resources Forum held in Prince George by MLA Pat Bell is set to open its doors for the 10th time this week.
The working title of this year's forum is The Economic Olympics - Can B.C. Win a Gold Medal?
"This year the forum brings together experts from across our nation to present and discuss what it will take to prepare the province to position itself to win in the world economic race," said Bell. "With so much to be learned here [from the speakers and panelists], I am confident that we will leave the Civic Centre with a better understanding of the natural resource industry and its role in the economic future of our province."
As a prime example of the global competitiveness in the natural resources sectors, the Xstrata mining corporation announced just before Christmas that it was extending the life of its copper mine in Chile by 16 years. The same day, it announced it was expanding its Australian zinc mine's production by more than 30 per cent. And they are currently exploring a copper find less than 20 kilometres from the city limits of Prince George. Xstrata is also involved in a coal exploration campaign in the mountains of northeast B.C. The company's general manager for that project, Doug Smith, is one of the panelists at the forum.
Another special guest on the forum's agenda is Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Affiliates which owns Babine Forest Products. He will be on the stage to detail why the company has chosen to go ahead with a rebuild of the Babine facility after it was destroyed in an explosion and fire last January, despite concerns over timber supply near the mill site.
"Why did Rio Tinto Alcan invest $3.3 billion in Kitimat? Why did Hampton Affiliates decide to rebuild the Burns Lake sawmill after saying no in Washington and Oregon? How do any of the boards of these multinational, billion-dollar companies make the kind of decisions that bring them to invest in B.C.? What are they looking for?," said Bell, outlining the underlying themes of the forum.
"As we see significant economic shifts around the globe I believe we are at a point in time where B.C. can emerge as a global leader or we can lag behind and, unfortunately I dont think there is much between those two places," he added.
The 2013 Natural Resources Forum happens Wednesday and Thursday at the Prince George Civic Centre.
Scheduled highlights from Wednesday include a morning keynote address by Doug Bloom, president of Canadian LNG Energy and Spectra Energy on the topic of liquid natural gas opportunities, a luncheon keynote address by Mike Cory, senior vice-president (western region) for CN Rail, on the topic of rail issues and opportunities across the northern region, an afternoon keynote address by Kevin Evans, CEO of the Industry Training Authority on the topic of "a new paradigm" for trades training, and a business and technology awards dinner that night.
The high points of Thursday's schedule is the morning keynote address by Zika, CEO of Hampton Affiliates, on why Hampton invested in B.C., a lunch speech by senator and former Olympic skiing star Nancy Greene Raine on "what you need to do to win a gold medal" in your chosen field, and the afternoon keynote address by Robert Gallagher, president and CEO of NewGold on the company's mining exploration between Prince George and Vanderhoof.