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BC exploration spending hits ten-year record

8th March 2023

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

     

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Exploration spending in British Columbia reached C$740-million, surpassing the previous ten-year high of C$681-million seen in 2012, with copper being the driving force behind the record-setting year.

Conversely, the number of projects and total metres drilled decreased by 24% and 20%, respectively, from the previous year as exploration shifted toward earlier stage activities, EY’s seventh yearly British Columbia mineral and coal exploration survey has found.

The survey, conducted by EY, the government of British Columbia's Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation and the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME), provides a view of the current state of the mineral and coal exploration sector in British Columbia.

"Last year was marked with volatility of metals prices, through a combination of macroeconomic and geopolitical factors that had a range of both positive and negative impacts," says EY Canada mining and metals consulting leader Iain Thompson.

"The reduced risk of pandemic-related shutdowns and full reopening of economies, countered by the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy crisis in its wake, created an environment of uncertainty in the commodity market. With this backdrop considered, the year also marked a record year for exploration spending in British Columbia."

Fuelled by favourable market conditions and demand, copper exploration spending jumped 84% year-on-year in 2022, rising from C$128-million in 2021 to C$235-million.

Similarly, critical metals exploration in British Columbia jumped 77% year-on-year, while precious metals spend saw a 91% increase from 2020.

Gold spending retained the record-high levels seen in 2021, decreasing by a marginal 2% year-on-year from C$431-million in 2021 to C$422-million in 2022. Despite this downturn, survey responses indicate interest in gold has not dwindled. About 46% of survey respondents indicated gold as the primary commodity of exploration.

The survey also found that exploration is shifting towards discovery after years of focus on advancing economics of existing projects. Grassroots and early-stage exploration accounted for 39% of total exploration spending in 2022, receiving 78% more funding year-on-year, while later stage projects — those in the advanced, mine-evaluation and mine-lease stages — received 10% less funding.

"It's exciting to see exploration spending strengthening in BC, particularly as the need for minerals and metals increases as we undergo a global transition towards electrification and a low carbon future," says AME president and CEO Kendra Johnston.

"We're also encouraged to see survey respondents increase their commitment to working with First Nations throughout the exploration and development lifecycle to ensure benefits extend to the local and surrounding communities."

The exploration industry plays a crucial role in the provincial economy. Of the C$740-million invested into the exploration and evaluation of mineral deposits, C$42-million was spent on First Nations community consultation and exploration agreements. Additionally, survey respondents indicated a 32% increase in employment within the sector.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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