Five years on, BC mining industry still struggling

Eight mines stopped producing from 2015 to early 2016

This year marks the fifth year B.C. mining has struggled through low commodity prices, and both capital spending and revenues continue to decline, according to a PwC report on the industry.

PwC finds some silver linings amidst the gloom, pointing out that Pretium Resources is building its new Brucejack mine and a new silver mine is being developed by JDS Silver.

A total of eight mines halted production in 2015 and early 2016, moves that resulted in job losses for 20% of B.C.’s mining workforce. Quoted in the report, Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of BC, said, “There is no rebound in sight.”

“Cost containment measures” — including workforce layoffs and other measures to save money — will continue for at least the next 12 to 18 months, she said. Between 2013 and 2015, nearly 2,000 B.C. workers lost their jobs as mining employment fell from 10,720 workers in 2013 to 8,726 in 2015.

Junior mining companies have been particularly affected by the downturn as capital for those higher-risk investments has become harder to attract.

Commodity prices are expected to remain depressed in 2016, but the story varies depending on the commodity. Copper, silver and gold prices are not expected to rise. Metallurgical coal has recently seen higher spot prices in Asia, while zinc is the “one bright spot” in the metals forecast. Zinc supply is expected to drop, while demand is growing because of stronger auto production and increased infrastructure spending in China and India.