Exploration for copper was the driving force behind a record-setting year for provincial spending. Fueled by favourable market conditions and demand, copper exploration spending jumped 84% year over year in 2022, rising from $128 million in 2021 to $235 million. Similarly, critical metals exploration in B.C. jumped 77% year-over-year, while precious metals spend saw a 91% increase from 2020.
Gold spending retained the record-high levels seen in 2021, decreasing by a marginal 2% year over year from $431 million in 2021 to $422 million in 2022. Despite this downturn, survey responses indicate interest in gold has not dwindled. Approximately 46% of survey respondents indicated gold as the primary commodity of exploration.
The survey found that exploration in B.C. is shifting towards discovery after years of focus on advancing economics of existing projects. Grassroots and early-stage exploration accounted for 39% of total exploration spending in 2022, receiving 78% more funding year over year, while later stage-projects – those in the advanced, mine evaluation and mine lease stages – received 10% less funding.
Of the $740 million invested into the exploration and evaluation of mineral deposits, $42 million was spent on First Nations community consultation and exploration agreements. Additionally, survey respondents indicated a 32% increase in employment within the sector.
The full report is available for download at the EY website.