BC exploration remains robust despite first y-on-y drop in a decade

13th March 2024 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

BC exploration remains robust despite first y-on-y drop in a decade

British Columbia's exploration industry has found itself resilient in the face of global headwinds, remaining strong through the impact of climbing interest rates, economic turbulence and geopolitical tensions that have plagued the industry in the years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports professional services group EY.

In its BC Mineral and Coal Exploration Survey 2023,  EY notes that despite a troubling year in which drilling decelerated and exploration marked its first decline in almost a decade, the Canadian province still managed its third-highest exploration expenditure in ten years.

That is thanks, in part, to the continued strength of the copper exploration sector and the province's Northwest region, where a surge in exploration activity was responsible for 69% of spend in 2023, the organisation states.

Exploration spend across the province for the year was recorded at C$643-million, representing a 13% year-on-year decrease, compared with the record year of C$740-million in 2022. This is the first year-on-year decrease in exploration spend seen in the province since 2015/16, when exploration spend plummeted by 25%.

Total metres drilled decreased by 35% from 2022, falling from 1.15-million metres in 2022 to 748 000 m in 2023. This continues the trend of declining drilling activity in the province that was seen from 2021 to 2022, a 20% decrease year-on-year.

While spending in gold has previously driven record high levels of exploration expenditure, exploration interest in copper has significantly outpaced that of gold.

With early-stage exploration down 10% from 2022, and tightening financing conditions taking a toll on grassroots exploration, it will be critical that the industry stay the course to meet the demand for metals needed to support decarbonization efforts for the future.

Launched at the yearly Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention last week, the survey is a joint initiative between the government of British Columbia's Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, the Association for Mineral Exploration and EY Canada.

The report analyses the survey responses, financial reports and press releases from 175 mineral and coal companies operating in British Columbia, responsible for 244 projects across the province.