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

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read