Northern B.C. mining activity is leading the nation in that sector.
The provincial government declared this Mineral Exploration week in B.C., with several accompanying announcements on improving the business of mining in this province, but the major recognition came on Monday from national observers.
"The mining sector in Canada’s north is forecast to almost double its output and employment by the end of the decade - staggering growth compared to the Canadian economy as a whole," said Anja Jeffrey, a director for the Centre for the North. "Northern British Columbia is expected to see the fastest expansion of mining output out of all the Northern regions over the forecast period." Mining output is forecast to grow by 300 per cent between 2011 and 2020 or 17 per cent annually. With the many new mines scheduled to open, employment is also expected to increase. In 2011, 1,368 northern British Columbians were employed in mining. By 2020, that number is predicted to almost quadruple, to more than 4,800.
The Centre For the North is a non-lobbyist research organization with a northern Canada focus. It is affiliated with the Conference Board of Canada, a nonpartisan think tank based in Ottawa, specializing in Canadian economic issues and public policy. The two groups published "The Future of Mining in Canada's North" on Monday.
Premier Christy Clark, on the same day, announced a set of improvements to government operations to specifically foster the mining industry. She also disclosed that revenues from B.C. mining exploration set a second consecutive annual record.
"The preliminary estimates for exploration expenditures are $680 million in 2012, up 47 per cent from the record-breaking number of $462 million in 2011," she said. "The estimate shows robust industry spending of unprecedented amounts in exploration, which is being driven by several large exploration programs such as Blackwater, a gold and silver project near Prince George, and the KSM project in northwest B.C., considered to be one of the largest undeveloped gold projects in the world."
The provincial government promised $7 million in new funding to cut red tape and open up regulatory bottlenecks for mining companies, especially beefing up the electronic application system. The streamlining will not cut back on the environmental assessment process or the Aboriginal/community consultation processes, the premier said.
The Conference Board/Centre For the North report likewise stressed the need to maintain and even improve the environmental oversight and social license aspects of mining. Addressing the lack of labourers for future mining projects also ranked high on their list of hurdles to the industry's long-term progress, as did a lack of available infrastructure to support mining exploration and development. Investing in northern transportation, communication and basic living needs would improve overall community life in the north, the report added.
Not only is British Columbia one of the nation's most active mining exploration provinces (third highest, at 18 per cent of the national total), it is also climbing fast in the ranks of output results as all that exploration turns into active mines.
B.C. is also situated closest geographically to the global market with infrastructure already in place or in development to ship by ocean to Asia, rail to the continental U.S. as well as air and highway links to the world. Northern B.C.'s investments in these fields put the region in an advantageous position.
The The Future of Mining in Canada’s North report makes six primary recommendations to Canada's provincial, territorial and federal governments:
- Adopt a transparent and integrated approach to supporting a competitive business environment for the mining industry in Canada’s north;
- Place greater emphasis on addressing infrastructure gaps;
- Increase support for recruitment initiatives focusing on women, new Canadians, youth, and Aboriginal workers;
- Put in more efforts to build meaningful community engagement, and implement Aboriginal land claims and resource development agreements;
- Reduce the high turnover rates of personnel in government regulatory bodies;
- Make further government investments to gather geoscience data in support of mineral exploration.