With several new projects on the horizon and exploration activity the highest it has been in several years, the mining industry in the West Kootenay is looking to rebound from its drought, says the president of the Chamber of Mines Eastern BC.
Jack Denny said exploration activity is increasing in the region, with many of the projects “flying under the radar” in the exploratory stage.
One of the largest is a $2.5-million exploration project in the Lardeau Valley, north of Kaslo. Mineral Mountain Resources is looking for silver, gold and some base metals in that region.
But, as far as a mine happening in that area any time soon, Denny couldn’t say for sure.
“That’s hard to predict,” he said. “They all require varying amounts of time, but …if you don’t keep exploring you won’t find one.”
Mining and exploration in West Kootenay employs over 400 people, Denny said. But the mining exploration expertise in the region is exported worldwide as well.
However, here at home there are no new mines planned for the West Kootenay region this year, said Denny. Last fall, Sultan Minerals said at least 90 jobs and $7 million annually in salaries could be injected into the region if their Jersey Emerald mine south of Salmo gets off the ground.
Ed Lawrence, the consultant for the tungsten mining project, had said Sultan Minerals $70-million project could provide at least 15 years of employment for the local area in three years if it was approved, with other value added features like a cement facility and a plant for processing other mine tailings extending its life.
The company is still engaged in obtaining proper permitting and environmental approval for the project.
In addition to Roca Mine north of Kaslo — the only mine to open in the province in the last 12 years — a few major mines in BC are slated to open in the next five years, including Red Chris in the northwest, Prosperity near Fish Lake in the Interior (now before the federal government for review), Mount Milligan north of Prince George, New Afton near Kamloops and Copper Mountain near Princeton.
In fact, Copper Mountain is expected to hit full production this month. On May 28 the commissioning of the mill was started with the first ore being processed. With the mechanical equipment adjustments completed, production commenced on June 4.
There are several hurdles that need to be overcome in order to turn encouraging exploration data into a mine, said Denny.
“It’s hard because it’s all timing, timing the prices,” he said. “It’s difficult, as a result, to get all of your ducks in a row at the same time, have your permits ready when you want them to be ready because you can’t predict when you need them.”
Last year, Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes said the mining industry was on the cusp of a boom in the province and, with 72 per cent of mining revenue coming from the Kootenays, the area was poised as well.
For every mining job there are four indirect mining jobs created to support the industry.
What is the Chamber of Mines?
The Chamber of Mines Eastern BC was born in 1925 out of the old Prospectors Protective Association.
The P.P.A. was organized in 1921 as a vehicle whereby prospectors, often uneducated and unsophisticated, (in those days), could protect themselves from the unscrupulous mining promoters of the time.
Formation of the Chamber of Mines in 1925 represented both growth in, and the "growing up" of, the industry as distrust of the promoters faded, and the Chamber took on the additional responsibilities of looking after the interests of mining and allied industries as well.
The Chamber of Mines today continues in its role of prospectors advocate, maintaining close links with the prospecting fraternity and with exploration and mining companies.