The performance of British Columbia mining companies is mirroring the return of confidence to the global industry, with the mining sector of Canada’s westernmost province posting positive results for the second consecutive year.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Canada’s ‘BC Mine’ report states that prices for most metals and minerals produced in the province improved in 2018, after an extended period of depressed prices.
On average, copper prices were 6% higher in 2018 relative to 2017, while metallurgical coal prices rose an average of 5% year-on-year. Higher prices led to an increase in revenue and net income, with gross mining revenue hitting a record high of C$12.3-billion, up from C$11.7-billion in 2017.
The industry boosted governments’ coffers by C$953-million in the year, from C$843-million, reflecting the higher revenue generated. PwC states that these payments have doubled in the last five years.
The companies operating in British Columbia spent C$95-million on exploration, up C$3-million on the previous year, and invested C$1.2-billion in capital expenditure, down from C$1.5-billion in 2017, as more projects moved into production and construction costs reduced.
Recent merger and acquisition (M&A) activity is another reflection of renewed optimism in the province’s mining industry. There had been a handful of M&A transactions in 2018 and 2019 to date, including Newmont Mining's acquisition of a 50% interest in the Galore Creek Partnership from Novagold Resources, to form a partnership with Teck Resources, and Taseko Mine's purchase of Yellowhead Mining. Newmont also recently closed its deal to buy Vancouver-based Goldcorp.
The metals and minerals produced in British Columbia, particularly copper and zinc, are used in everything from wind turbines to electric vehicles, which are critical to lower emissions. The region also hosts multi-decade resources of metallurgical/steelmaking coal, which is vital to economic development.
PwC states that regulatory changes, such as the province’s carbon tax framework and changes to the BC Environmental Assessment Act, are affecting the competitiveness of the mining industry. Nevertheless, the report states that British Columbia is still considered an attractive place for mining companies to invest and do business, thanks in part to its world-class infrastructure, highly skilled workforce and access to Asian markets through a sophisticated port system.
"There are great opportunities here in British Columbia, and it's up to the industry, the government and all other stakeholders to bring certainty to the mining sector, which is a major contributor to the provincial coffers," says PwC Canada mining partner Mark Platt.