British Columbia sees record investment in mineral exploration

January 24, 2023

During the opening ceremony of the Association of Mineral Exploration (AME) Roundup conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Premier David by said British Columbia had record spending on mineral exploration in 2022 with eight new mines or mine expansions in the works.

Eby told the conference that there was $740 million spent in mineral exploration in B.C. in 2022 – a record – and mineral production in B.C. is also expected to be a record: $18.2 billion.

Business in Vancouver reported that Eby’s update represents a $4.3 billion increase over 2021. That increase in value over 2021 was largely due to high metallurgical coal prices. Gordon Clarke of the BC Geological Survey's development office told Business in Vancouver steelmaking coal prices hit a high of US$670 per tonne last year, and remains relatively high at close to US$300 per tonne. B.C. has seven operating metallurgical coal mines.

Eby said there was an 84 percent increase in copper exploration in 2022, much of that concentrated in northwest B.C. in the so-called Golden Triangle.

Jonathan Price, new CEO for Teck Resources, which operates the Highland Valley Copper mine, said the estimated global demand for copper will grow by 4.7 million tonnes by 2030, thanks to the increased demand from the energy transition and greater urbanization.

“To put that into perspective, Teck's Highland Valley Copper mine here in B.C. is Canada's largest copper mine,” Price said. "4.7 million tonnes would be the equivalent of building another 35 Highland Valley Copper mines in just seven years.”

Eby noted that a commitment to speed up the permitting process and for for housing should also speed things up for resource industries like exploration and mining as well.

Business in Vancouver reported that Eby warned that the political landscape is changing, as a result of government commitments to reconciliation with First Nations. For one thing, the Mineral Tenure Act is likely going to have to be amended as a result of what Eby called “a very serious legal challenge” by First Nations.

First Nations pressing for changes to the act want to be notified when anyone files a mineral claim in their traditional territory. That has created some concerns for prospectors who consider mineral claims a form of intellectual property, and therefore like to keep claims secret.

The NDP government has recently struck agreements with First Nations that essentially make them co-regulators. A consent based decision making framework developed with the Tahltan First Nation last year is one example. Expect to see more such agreements going forward, Eby said.

He urged prospectors and exploration companies to work with First Nations to gain their consent when doing exploration and prospecting in their traditional territories.



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