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Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

April 20th, 2017

With a provincial election weeks away, Peter Caulfield asked sources in three British Columbia regions to comment on the importance of mining for the Association for Mineral Exploration’s quarterly magazine, Mineral Exploration. In general terms, the responses differ from views commonly heard in cities geographically removed but hardly independent of resource economies and the commodities they produce. In that respect, the relevance of Caulfield’s article applies far beyond B.C. The article is posted here with the permission of AME.

 

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

by Peter Caulfield

In a province that is as large and diverse as British Columbia, it’s natural that opinions on most topics—including mineral exploration and development—will be diverse too.

What the average person in Oak Bay or Yaletown thinks about a new mine or pipeline will be very different from what’s going through the head of somebody who lives in the northwestern corner of British Columbia or in the Kootenays in southeastern B.C.

As the province’s May 9 election approaches, Mineral Exploration wanted to know what’s on the mind of voters who live in the parts of the province that are most dependent on resource development. We talked to three well-connected observers of local politics in four provincial constituencies: Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson, Stikine and Kootenay East. We asked each of them what the hot-button issues are in their respective constituencies and whether mineral exploration and mine development is important to their fellow voters.

The following interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

 

Stikine

Maria Ryder, District of Stewart councillor for 2.5 years, chief of the volunteer fire department and 25-year Stewart resident

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

(Photo: Carl Ryan/AME)

The main projects in the Stewart region are Brucejack (Pretium Resources TSX:PVG), the Premier mine (Ascot Resources TSXV:AOT), Red Mountain (IDM Mining TSXV:IDM) and the Red Chris mine (Imperial Metals TSX:III).

Along with Terrace and Kitimat, Stewart is one of the largest communities in the district. We are growing in population, especially in the summer, when workers and their families descend on the town, drawn by mineral exploration and hydro projects and by Stewart’s two ports.

It’s very different here from urban British Columbia, and the people from down south who come up here to work find out just how different it is. And some of them discover how different some of our opinions and concerns are from theirs.

Because we get a lot of snow in the winter, much of the employment in Stewart is seasonal and the people who live here adjust their lives accordingly. Every year between March and November we’re busy, and between November and March things are pretty slow. But we’re used to it and we adjust.

The main election issue here is sustainable job creation through industrial development. We want jobs that stay and that provide stability to Stewart.

 

Kootenay East

Lois Halko, District of Sparwood second-term councillor and former mayor, born and raised in Sparwood

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

(Photo: Malcom Lennox/AME)

The main economic drivers of the region are the mining of metallurgical coal, which is B.C.’s single biggest export, and the activities of the local suppliers to the coal industry.

There are five Teck [Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A and TSX:TECK.B] metallurgical coal mines in the region: Coal Mountain, Elkview, Fording River, Greenhills and Line Creek. In addition, there are four mining companies that are interested in developing mines in the Elk Valley area: CanAus Coal, Centermount Coal, NWP Coal Canada and Riversdale Resources.

The five Teck mines have a total of 3,600 full-time employees, of whom 2,400 live in four communities in the Elk Valley area.

Because it is used to make steel, and because steel is such an essential product in everyone’s life, metallurgical coal should be recognized as a critical resource. It’s certainly critical to the people who live in Sparwood.

Teck has earned its social licence to continue mining here. The public has accepted the company’s efforts to mitigate any of the effects of coal mining, such as contaminants leaching into the water supply. Teck has done a lot of work to reduce the problem.

At the same time, we know that we need to diversify our economy. It’s something the local municipalities talk about a lot. The Sparwood regional economy is one of the least diversified in the province, which has made us very vulnerable to a cycle of boom and bust. The region has lots more to offer than just coal deposits, and we’re trying to leverage our mountains and natural beauty to build a thriving tourist industry.

 

Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson

Ryan Scorgie, president of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce

The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce and its 850 members take a great deal of interest in all kinds of resource development, including mineral development in Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson.

The main mineral projects in the area are the Ajax project (KGHM International), the New Afton mine (New Gold TSX:NGD) and Highland Valley Copper (Teck).

Opinions about resource development are mixed in Kamloops. Most of the working people here are for it, but many of the academics at Thompson Rivers University are against, so the Chamber of Commerce hears both sides of the argument. Our position is that if a project goes through the appropriate review process and passes it, then we support it.

In fact, the Chamber thinks process is so important that our Policy Development Committee developed a policy regarding resource development in 2016 called Supporting Canada’s Responsible Resource Development.

The policy statement is more important than its brevity might indicate, because it was adopted provincially just a few months after it was written.

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

(Photo: Neil Leonard/AME)

The committee writes, in part: “The Chamber believes that it is critical that B.C. maintains its reputation as a jurisdiction open to investment. Achieving the investments needed to ensure Canada’s competitiveness will require an efficient regulatory review process that ensures continued health and environmental protection of Canadians while generating jobs, economic growth and prosperity.

“A streamlined process will encourage investment by providing businesses with a clear and predictable process to protect the environment while making the best use of limited government resources.

“Inefficient and unpredictable processes may turn away potential investors and prevent businesses from being able to make informed location and logistic decisions. For example, the World Economic Forum has cited inefficient government bureaucracy as one of the biggest impediments to improving Canada’s economic competitiveness.

“We need to make sure that the regulatory review process is efficient and has a clear scope, reasonable timelines and the flexibility to address unforeseen circumstances.”

Originally published in the spring 2017 edition of Mineral Exploration. Posted here with the permission of the Association for Mineral Exploration.

Visual Capitalist: The re-awakening of the Golden Triangle

April 6th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | April 6, 2017

The re-awakening of the Golden Triangle

 

Many years ago, a remote and mountainous region in northwestern British Columbia gained considerable attention as an emerging mineral district. With a rich mining history, one of the world’s largest silver mines (Eskay Creek, discovered in 1988) and million-ounce gold deposits, this area of incredible wealth became known as the Golden Triangle.

However, despite its obvious potential, the vast majority of land in this highly prospective region has been left mostly untouched by humans. A combination of factors, including low gold prices and a lack of infrastructure, led to the area lying dormant for decades.

Today, things are changing dramatically. The Golden Triangle is a new hotbed for mineral discovery, where over 130 million ounces of gold, 800 million ounces of silver and 40 billion pounds of copper have been found. The amazing part is that this is only scratching the surface of the region’s ultimate potential.

Skeena Resources TSXV:SKE and IDM Mining TSXV:IDM have generously helped put together the story on the re-awakening of the famed Golden Triangle.

The new gold rush

Why is the Golden Triangle at the centre of attention again? There are five main reasons:

1. New deposits found

The old adage is that the best place to find a new mine is near an existing one. Here are three major deposits in the Golden Triangle that have geologists and financiers buzzing:

KSM

Seabridge Gold’s (TSX:SEA) KSM project is the largest gold project in the world. In 2014 it received the green light from Canada’s federal government to go ahead. A porphyry-style deposit, it has reserves of 38.8 million ounces of gold, 10.2 billion pounds of copper and 183 million ounces of silver.

Red Chris

This $700-million copper and gold mine entered production in 2015. Owned by Imperial Metals TSX:III, it will be in production until 2043 based on current mine life estimates. In 2016 alone, it produced 83 million pounds of copper, 47,000 ounces of gold and 190,000 ounces of silver.

Valley of the Kings

The latest, and perhaps most interesting, discovery in the Golden Triangle is slotted to reach commercial production in 2017. The Valley of the Kings, unlike the above porphyry-style deposits, contains extremely high-grade gold. With 15.6 million tonnes grading 16.1 g/t gold, this deposit has some of the richest ore in the world.

2. New Infrastructure

In recent years, the Golden Triangle has received three massively important infrastructure upgrades:

  • Paving of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (north from Smithers)

  • Opening of ocean port facilities for export of concentrate at Stewart

  • Completion of a $700-million high-voltage transmission line to bring power into the Golden Triangle

3. Declining snow cover

Glacial ice and snow have been retreating in many parts of the region, revealing rocks never seen before by human eyes. Especially in a mineral-rich region such as the Golden Triangle, this is a very exciting prospect for mineral geologists.

4. A new geological explanation

The Golden Triangle region has complex geology that had befuddled explorers for decades—but recent work has made the picture much clearer. Geologist Jeff Kyba has put forth the following theory: Geological contact between Triassic-age Stuhini rocks and Jurassic-age Hazelton rocks is the key marker for copper-gold mineralization.

Most of the Triangle’s copper-gold deposits, whether they are large-scale porphyry and intrusion-related, are found within two kilometres of this contact. It’s been named the Red Line, and this new interpretation of the region’s geology could contribute to B.C.’s next mega deposit.

5. Gold price recovery

Since the “sleepy” days of the Golden Triangle, gold prices have increased three times, even after adjusting for inflation. Combined with new infrastructure, exciting projects and world-class mineral potential, the Golden Triangle is awake again.

What’s happening today?

Today, the Golden Triangle is buzzing with activity.

  • The Red Chris mine is now in operation

  • Valley of the Kings is entering production in 2017

  • KSM, the world’s largest gold deposit, is nearing potential construction

  • Historic mines like the Snip Mine and Granduc are being explored using modern methods

  • New high-grade gold is being found. Red Mountain and the old Premier gold mine are the sites of some of these discoveries

  • Dozens of companies are on the ground performing all phases of exploration

Many types of mineral deposits are being tested for, including high-grade gold veins, large-scale porphyries and VMS (volcanogenic massive sulphide) deposits. The Golden Triangle is once again a centre of attention and it could be poised to become one of the world’s most prolific concentrations of mineral wealth.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

See an infographic about the Golden Triangle’s mining history.