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Vanderhoof shares in B.C. mining potential

About 450 full time jobs expected at just one of the new mines angling to open – if B.C.’s ‘sclerotic permitting system’ gets unclogged
Artemis Gold Blackwater site near Vanderhoof, B.C. | Artemis

Seven new mines could be built in B.C. in the coming years – an investment worth $4 billion that would generate 6,400 new construction and mining jobs.

But if the B.C. government wants those jobs, it needs to unclog its sclerotic permitting system, said Michael Goehring, president of the Mining Association of BC.

“Before any of these projects can proceed, and before the economic benefits can start flowing, they must be permitted by government,” Goehring said Wednesday in his annual address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

“I said this here two years ago and, unfortunately, I have to say it again.”

Goehring cited a couple of examples of new mines or mine expansions that are in the works. One is Artemis Gold Blackwater gold mine near Vanderhoof.

Artemis Gold bought Blackwater in August 2020 and plans to have project financing for work in the new mine by this fall. The production target is set for 2024.

“That project will boost the economy of B.C.’s central interior at a time when it desperately needs a boost,” Goehring said. “With this one mine, we’re talking 825 construction jobs for two years and up to 457 new jobs that will be created during operations.”

He added revenue sharing agreements with local First Nations would provide them with $200 million in benefits from the Blackwater mine.

Teck Resources is also planning an expansion of its Highland Valley Copper mine. The mine has only six years of life left. The expansion would extend it to 2040, Goehring said.

But B.C. risks a missed bonanza if it doesn’t fix its regulatory problems – a bonanza being driven in part by the global decarbonisation movement, which will require massive amounts of metals, like copper.

Copper prices are currently at an all-time high. And the demand for copper and dozens of other metals and minerals are expected to grow to meet the demand for new electric vehicles, batteries and renewable energy.

“Governments are making – or are poised to make – unprecedented investments in infrastructure and in clean tech,” Goering said. “And whether it’s copper for electric vehicles or metallurgical coal for the steel needed to build transit and bridges and wind turbines – we have it right here in BC.

“There is an urgency to make this happen. The time is now. This unique window of opportunity won’t be open for long.”

But high demand and prices for clean energy metals and minerals won’t necessarily translate into new mines being built in B.C. if the regulatory process is too onerous.

“Developing a new mining project in BC – or expanding an existing one - takes far too long and comes with too much uncertainty,” Goehring said. “Meanwhile increasing costs are hobbling our ability to compete in the world market.

“I simply can’t stress this enough. The permitting process in our province is too slow, too complex, and too costly.

“That said, we are encouraged and appreciative of the government’s ongoing review of the permitting process and look forward to an outcome that will lead to a permitting system that’s measured in months, not years.”