Editorial: sitting on a gold mine

Quesnel’s mining past may well be its future

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources has declared May to be mining month, and as a city with its roots firmly planted in the industry, we’ve got a lot to celebrate.

The Cariboo Gold Rush attracted Canadians from across the country in the mid-1800s, as well as Americans, Brits and Chinese people hoping to find their fortune.

Quesnel is one of the many communities that became important in those days – hence the iconic gold pan, hundreds of times larger than an actual pan, located at the city’s northern entrance.

While the city of Quesnel has rebranded in the past few years, calling the “Gold Pan City” tag line dated, and moving to one reflecting our wider environment, that behemoth gold pan is a reminder of how Quesnel evolved from the home of the Southern Carrier people to a mining sector hub in the 1800s.

And the mining industry is alive and well in the Cariboo, despite the gold rush being over.

Barkerville Gold Mines – with a corporate office in Toronto, but a local workforce – is exploring the Wells and Barkerville area once again for mineral deposits, and its website says the research indicates the area will yield gold-containing ore over the long-term.

And mining company New Gold is currently exploring a mineral deposit located within Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation (Kluskus) traditional territory. The company is in the process of completing an environmental assessment with the co-operation of the Lhoosk’uz Dené people, and band members are gaining short-term employment on the project, according to the band’s website.

There are many more mining endeavours going on in our region, and not all of it gold. It looks like our mining history may be repeating itself, albeit in a more organized fashion, and hopefully with no trials presided over by descendants of “Hanging Judge” Matthew Begbie.

Local interest in the mining sector and our roots in the industry was recently on display at the Gold Show in Alex Fraser Park in April, and the city has just won a bid to host Minerals North 2020, a conference that will bring around 500 mining-sector experts to Quesnel.

“This is a part of British Columbia in which mining has figured significantly in the region’s development and currently a place of operating mines and several high profile mineral exploration projects,” notes Minerals North Conference Association president Andrew Webber.

As the Honourable Michelle Mungall says, “mineral exploration and mining have remained a foundational industry of the province.” B.C. is the largest producer of copper and second-largest producer of silver in Canada.

So maybe our enormous mining implements along Highway 97, with “Gold Pan City” emblazoned in white and yellow, are not outdated. Local mining projects are showing innovation and growth.

Who knows – maybe one day, the majority of Quesnel’s workforce will once again be digging for pay dirt.

Melanie Law

Quesnel Cariboo Observer

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