March/April 2011

BC mineral exploration forecast to hit $500 million in 2011

Teck president sounds cautionary note at Roundup

By Peter Caulfield


Don Lindsay speaks at AME BC Luncheon at Mineral Exploration Roundup 2011 | Photo courtesy of Brian Dennehy, AME BC

The optimism surrounding mining in B.C. was highly evident at this year’s Mineral Exploration Roundup, but it was tinged with some careful advice.

Spending on mineral exploration in B.C. is expected to reach $500 million in 2011, spurred on by high commodities prices, said B.C. Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes in his opening speech at the three-day event. “Perhaps the greatest indicator of mining’s excellent health is the development of new mines,” said Hawes. “The mining industry invested over $1 billion last year, expanding existing and operating new mines in B.C.” In 2010, exploration spending in B.C. hit $322 million, more than double the $154 million recorded in 2009.

Between 2009 and 2010, four key B.C. minerals experienced significant price increases: metallurgical coal rose by 70 per cent, copper by 45 per cent, silver by 37 per cent and gold jumped 25 per cent. Recent mine expansions at Endako, Gibraltar, Highland Valley Copper and Wolverine are a good indication of the appeal the province has to mining companies, added Hawes. He cited low corporate taxes and the elimination of 152,000 government regulations since 2001 as major factors for improving the investment climate for mining in the province.

Looking at the international context, Canada held the regional number two spot for planned exploration spending in 2010 and attracted 19 per cent of worldwide nonferrous exploration spending, according to Halifax-based Metals Economics Group (MEG) 21st “Corporate Exploration Strategies” study, which was released at the conference. Canada has sat in second place for nine years since overtaking Australia in 2002.

According to the MEG study, four provinces together accounted for more than three-quarters of the $2.2 billion of planned Canadian nonferrous exploration spending in 2010: Ontario, 31 per cent; Quebec, 17 per cent; Saskatchewan, 15 per cent; and British Columbia, 14 per cent.

Speaking on the theme of “Exploring Today for Tomorrow’s Resources,” Teck Resources president and CEO Don Lindsay sounded a more cautionary note on the future of mining and exploration in Canada. Lindsay said one of the reasons for higher commodities prices was a large and increasing appetite for Canadian commodities in China. But, although the long-term outlook remains positive, Chinese demand might become less dependable in the short term as the Chinese government intervenes to keep the economy from overheating.

Lindsay counseled companies to develop strong exploration programs even as the search for mineral deposits leads them to more remote and politically unstable regions.

Organized by the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC), the Mineral Exploration Roundup saw record attendance this year. The event drew over 7,000 people from over 30 countries, including 270 exhibitors. AME BC chair Mona Forster confirmed that it was the best attended Roundup to date.

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