The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)

B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

A push to decarbonize the world’s economy, continued rapid development in Asia and a recovery from COVID-19 are green shoots of growth for mining, participants in the annual B.C. Natural Resources Forum say.

Executives for working mines and those in development agreed that while B.C.’s advantages include abundant hydro power, world-leading relations with Indigenous people and a skilled workforce, the investment climate needs improvement with more speed and certainty in securing permits to build.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, prices dropped into the tank, and now they’re starting to rise,” said Michael Goehring, CEO of the B.C. Mining Association, host of a mining discussion at the forum Jan. 26. And as the economy retools for a low-carbon future, “mining as an industry is being viewed as a solution.”

Speakers included Gil Clausen, CEO of Copper Mountain mine near Princeton; Jacques Perron, CEO of Pretivm Resources, operator of Brucejack, a gold mine north of Stewart in northeast B.C.; and Brian Sullivan, CEO of Conuma Resources, which restarted the Wolverine coal mine near Tumbler Ridge. Representing mines in development was Kelly Earle, a vice-president for Skeena Resources, which is working to restart the Eskay Creek gold and silver mine in northwest B.C., and Steven Dean of Artemis Gold, which is developing the Blackwater mine south of Vanderhoof.

Skeena bought Eskay Creek from Barrick Gold in 2018, and is converting it from an underground mine to open-pit with power from a nearby run-of-river hydro plant. Earle said the company spent $55 million on the mine last year, nearly half of it with companies in the Tahltan Nation, which has multiple mine partnerships. B.C. is “the birthplace of the impact benefit agreement” with Indigenous partners, but the province’s timeline of four to five years for a project that has already operated is “unacceptable” for the kind of investment needed to get it operating, she said.

Goehring noted that Premier John Horgan spoke to the recent Association of Mineral Exploration conference in Vancouver about a government-industry group working on the permit issue, which all speakers saw as important to making B.C. competitive enough to maintain and expand mining.

Dean said Blackwater would be the first new gold mine in B.C. in many years, with a target for starting production in the second quarter of 2022. It will provide 825 direct jobs in the construction phase and 450 once it is operating, an important lift for the central B.C. economy that has seen a decline in the forest industry.

B.C. has a reputation for slow and uncertain approvals, but “to the provincial government’s credit, that reputation is changing,” he said.

RELATED: Copper Mountain has expansion plans for 2021

RELATED: Skeena Resources buys Eskay Creek gold mine

Clausen said Copper Mountain provides 500 well-paying jobs and is working on a transition to electric trolley haul trucks to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In partnership with the Upper Similkameen First Nation, it began a mine reclamation project in 2018 using biosolids from Metro Vancouver to restore broken rock areas from mining, and that is being scaled up, he said.

Clausen said the company adapted to COVID-19 to protect the nearby community, and provided money to its employees to help support local restaurants and other businesses under stress from the pandemic.

Sullivan said Conuma employs 950 people, many of whom make more than $100,000 a year, and supports the economies of Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd. Production of metallurgical coal is vital to the rapid growth of Asia, and the company is in the B.C. environmental assessment process to open a new pit to provide an additional 10 years of shipments through Prince Rupert and Tsawwassen coal terminals.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislaturemining

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Shiromali Krishnaraj arrives from India and receives a mandatory COVID-19 test at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. B.C.’s approved rapid tests also use a nasal swab, with a machine to scan for COVID-19 antibodies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s rapid COVID-19 tests have produced only two positive results

Tests deployed for exposures in schools, outbreaks in care homes, jails

BC Emergency Health Services confirmed that a call was received just before 10 a.m. Ground paramedics, as well as an air ambulance, are on the way to the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BREAKING: Helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

The Nanaimo bar display at the Nanaimo Museum. (City of Nanaimo Instagram)
City of Nanaimo points to correct recipe after New York Times botches batch of bars

City addresses ‘controversy’ around dessert square’s layers

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Comox Valley-raised Shay Sandiford has earned a spot on the Canada skateboard team. Facebook
Vancouver Islander selected to Canada’s first-ever national skateboard team

Courtenay’s Shay Sandiford has his eye on qualifying for this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo

Most Read