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

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty chairs an opioid crisis working group pushing for policies to stop the flow of illicit drugs in Canada. (Victoria Police Department photo)
‘The opioid crisis impacts all of us’: Cariboo Prince Geroge MP Todd Doherty

Todd Doherty is co-chair of Conservative Party caucus opioid crisis working group

SIMPSON: The role of local government is changing

Mayor Bob Simpson outlines what mandate creep means for Quesnel

Researchers in B.C. say earlier than usual return of bats or dead bats can indicate trouble, such as signs of white-nose syndrome. (Cathy Koot photo)
Public help is essential for monitoring for bat disease

Anyone finding a dead bat is asked to report it to the BC Community Bat Program

In this Nov. 21, 2019 file photo, Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces the Cybertruck at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne, Calif. The much-hyped unveil of Tesla’s electric pickup truck went off script Thursday night when supposedly unbreakable window glass shattered twice when hit with a large metal ball. The failed stunt, which ranks high on the list of embarrassing auto industry rollouts, came just after Musk bragged about the strength of “Tesla Armor Glass” on the wedge-shaped “Cybertruck.” (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)
FOREST INK: Electric vehicles the future, not present of industry

Jim Hilton looks at where electric vehicles need to go

Cassidy Dankochik joined the Observer’s staff in Aug. of 2020 by way of Gimli, Altona, and Flin Flon, Manitoba. (Photo by Tracey Roberts)
EDITOR’S COLUMN: Optimism at council

Cassidy Dankochik enjoyed the news from the City of Quesnel’s most recent meeting

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

Would you let a robot take your temperature?

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

Most Read