The Association for Mineral Exploration BC (AME BC) and a number of British Columbia-based exploration industry representatives recently mounted an education and lobbying effort. The aim was to increase the provincial government’s awareness of the important link between publicly available geoscience information and the exploration industry’s success, as well as the role of geoscience in increasing a jurisdiction’s attractiveness for investment.
As a result of this effort, and the desire of the province to bring more exploration activity to B.C., Premier Gordon Campbell announced in January 2005 a $25-million grant to be used for applied geoscience. Twenty million dollars of this grant was directed to minerals geoscience in the province, and $5 million to oil and gas geoscience in the interior basins of B.C.
Following the announcement, AME BC in association with industry and government representatives established Geoscience BC (GBC) as an industry-led, industry-focused organization. The mandate of the not-for-profit society was to deliver applied, public geoscience data and knowledge to attract mineral and oil/gas exploration investment to British Columbia.
One of the first steps by GBC’s board was to set up a committee of 20 technical experts from industry, academia and government to advise the organization, recommend priority project activities, and review project proposals and bids. Representatives from government agencies ensure that GBC avoids duplicating any planned government programs.
While many were concerned that this new organization was meant to replace the B.C. Geological Survey, it quickly became apparent that this was not the case, when the provincial government increased the budget of the Survey in early 2006. GBC complements the Survey by focusing on accelerating geoscience data collection, undertaking geophysical and geochemical surveys, and establishing partnership projects with industry, academia, communities, First Nations and governments. Numerous geoscience projects by graduate and undergraduate students have been supported by GBC’s funding.
Within the first year and a half of its operation, GBC has committed over $5.5 million to more than 30 geoscience projects in the province, with almost 1:1 leveraging of GBC’s dollars with contributions from partners in industry, academia, communities and government, for a total of over $10 million in new geoscience spending in B.C.
The payback has been almost immediate. The results of two geochemical surveys were released in July 2006, and since then more than 190,000 hectares of claims have been staked in the map sheets covered by one of the surveys.
GBC continues to look for creative partnerships. One project was initiated by the Whispering Pines-Clinton Indian Band in southern B.C., who proposed that a multi-parameter geophysical survey be carried out over their traditional territory. In partnership with the federal government’s Targeted Geoscience Initiative as well as several companies, and the support of the band, GBC engaged the federal government to contract and manage a combined aeromagnetic-radiometric geophysical survey of the east half of the Bonaparte Lake sheet. This map sheet includes some of the Quesnellia terrane, highly prospective for copper and gold deposits. One of the industry partners has already announced plans to drill several of the anomalies identified on their claims, based on preliminary data released to them in October. Public release of this survey data is planned for April 2007.
On the oil and gas side, GBC’s focus has been on the Nechako Basin, which was explored for petroleum in the 1960s to early 1980s. The most recent exploration activity was undertaken by Canadian Hunter Exploration, which collected over 1,300 km of 2-D seismic data, conducted a regional gravity survey and drilled several wells. GBC has recently acquired the rights to this seismic and gravity data. It will have the seismic data reprocessed to modern standards, and use these results to plan new data collection in the basin.
Geoscience BC’s technical advisory committee is developing a prioritized list of geologic domains to help determine future project areas. This prioritization will reflect industry’s interests in key geologic domains, mineral deposit types, and accessibility to exploration, to ensure that the data collected will result in new exploration investment in B.C.
‘Lyn Anglin is president and CEO of Geoscience BC in Vancouver. She can be reached at 604-662-4147 ext 23 or [email protected]
Fast Facts About B.C.’s Mineral Sector
* British Columbia is home to 19 mines, 32 major industrial minerals quarries and mines, and more than 1,100 aggregate pits.
* There are 25 mines currently undergoing or proposed to begin the environmental review process. This compares with only one mine in the process in 2001.
* Total mineral exploration investments in 2005 were over $220 million compared with just $25 million in 1999. This is an increase of 780% and the highest level since 1991.
* B.C.’s share of Canadian exploration investment was 16.3% in 2005, up from a low of 5.7% in 2001.
* There were 4.9 million hectares of land staked in 2005, up from 1.1 million hectares in 2004 and the highest annual total on record in the province.