The core shack at Roundup Credit: Association for Mineral Exploration
The mineral exploration industry has had a unique year. Metal prices have stayed relatively strong, and yet it’s been challenging for many junior mining companies to attract investment. British Columbia has continued to succeed and be highlighted on the global mineral exploration and mining stage – in particular, the northwest region of B.C. That region includes the “Golden Triangle,” a once remote area that is now well resourced with a series of infrastructure investments and mineral exploration projects. This region is seen, around the world, as a strong, vibrant and competitive mineral exploration hub. This success is partly due to the strong support from First Nations for sustainable and responsible resource development, which will bring jobs and economic opportunities. The region has also seen a steady increase in investment by major mining companies into junior explorers. Newmont Goldcorp and Teck Resources have partnered to advance the Galore Creek project; Newmont Goldcorp also recently invested in GT Gold, and Newcrest Mining acquired 70% of the Red Chris copper-gold mine in August. These are just three of the many deals we have seen in the province this year.
Another area that has benefited in 2019 from mineral exploration is the Spences Bridge area in south-central B.C. This area encompasses Fraser Canyon, which is a foundational part of our history in the province. The Spences Bridge belt has seen ups and downs in mineral exploration, but as the gold price rises, interest always comes back. It’s easily accessible from local towns, meaning there is less impact to the land without the need for camps, and safety concerns are alleviated with a hospital close by. Projects can take advantage of local skilled labour, and the area has infrastructure (a major highway) and cell coverage, not to mention gold and copper still to be discovered and defined. This year, the region saw a number of property deals and acquisitions, mostly between junior companies and local prospectors, an indication of the earlier mineral exploration stage in the region when compared to the Northwest.
The Association for Mineral Exploration’s (AME) advocacy work is continuous, and earlier this year, we were happy to announce to our members and all B.C. investors that the B.C. government made permanent the provincial mineral exploration tax credit and the Mining Flow-through Share tax credit incentives, while also committing to the 24 actions outlined in the B.C. Mining Jobs Task Force Report.
Throughout the year, AME was involved in numerous working groups and sessions. In the fall, we participated in a multi-stakeholder working group to engage on the most notable new legislation in recent history, Bill 41, which enacted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law in B.C. The new law is closely tied to the provincial government’s goal, across all ministries, of advancing reconciliation in B.C. Upon introduction of the Bill into the legislature, AME expressed our support and noted that the B.C. mineral exploration and mining industry is already at the forefront of advancing reconciliation in the province by way of agreements and partnerships with Indigenous communities that embody the principles of UNDRIP. There is much more work to be done as the laws of B.C. are slowly brought into alignment with UNDRIP. We look forward to working collaboratively with government and First Nations on the development and implementation of the action plans as we embark on this path.
In January, we are hosting the 37th annual AME Roundup conference, which is appropriately themed “Lens on Discovery.” The program is designed to take a closer look at those projects, innovations and expertise that exemplify the passion and skill in our industry. Roundup provides an opportunity to expand your network with more than 6,000 participants in attendance and to hear from outstanding keynote speakers, to learn from informative panel discussions, and to see the rocks from the some of the projects that you usually only get to read about. As usual, you can expect to choose from a full slate of exceptional Technical Sessions and Short Courses. The 2020 Theme Session is “Seeing the Unseeable” and will focus on new ways to see ore systems under cover, at depth or from their cryptic expressions on the surface of the Earth. This is a chance to listen to industry experts and hear the latest research in looking under cover to discover deeper targets.
We are thrilled to once again have a sold-out Exhibit Hall that includes the Innovation Hub and the Innovation Stage, which are open to all participants and will feature presentations by exhibitors showcasing their groundbreaking new technologies. This year, new to the Innovation Hub and Stage, is the Vanguard Panel moderated by Stephen de Jong, CEO of VRIFY. The panel will discuss the role that technology has in attracting capital back into the sector and reaching a younger audience of engaged investors. Also new is the Geophysics Session which will include seismic exploration case studies, the application of AI and machine learning for targeting, and a case study on the use of HeliSAM in the Abitibi.
AME’s Roundup conference is also a special occasion for industry and government leaders to discuss the mineral exploration and development landscape at the Government-Industry Forum.
AME will salute our industry’s best and brightest at the Awards Gala: Celebration of Excellence dinner on Jan. 22. This year, we have the honour of recognizing 11 individuals and four organizations for their achievements.
We are looking forward to seeing you at Roundup 2020, to hearing what you’ve been up to, what your challenges are, where you see potential opportunities. Please take the time to stop us in the halls and give us your feedback; our job is to serve you, our membership.
In closing, please accept my heartfelt thanks to the amazing volunteers, board and executive team and staff. The Association has a strong, credible and important voice because of each of you. Thank you for your time and commitment.
KENDRA JOHNSTON, PGeo, MBA is the president and CEO of AME