BC attracts C$331 million for mineral exploration, 97% stays in province

Kendra Johnston, AME president. Image by AME.

AME, the lead association for the mineral exploration and development industry in resource-rich British Columbia (BC), hosted more than 6,000 people from 44 countries at its AME Roundup conference in Vancouver last week.  

MINING.COM sat down with the AME’s new president and CEO, Kendra Johnston, to discuss the industry’s economic impact and job creation in British Columbia, as well as advancements in reconciliation with First Nations.

MINING.COM: Can you tell us about the AME, its mandate and reach?

Johnston: AME is the lead advocacy group for mineral explorers who are working in BC, or are based in BC and are working abroad. Our main goal is to advocate on their behalf with government, based on policies and regulations. We also have a strong public relations and outreach component, to increase mineral literacy in the general public. Our reach is right across the province, from a political advocacy perspective. And many of our members are working around the world, so we impact some things that are happening from a Canadian best-practice perspective and try to merge them internationally.

Last year there was C$331 million allocated in the province for mineral exploration alone

MINING.COM: You are a newly-appointed CEO – how long has it been?

Johnston: Seven months. I have been around the Association for 18 years as a volunteer, and sat on the board of directors for nine of those years.

MINING.COM: What is the AME’s impact on job creation in BC?

Johnston: There are a lot of projects that happen right across the province every year. Last year there was C$331 million allocated in the province for mineral exploration alone. This year the number is slightly down – by C$ 3 million. We’ve done a couple of surveys, and did some analysis, and what we found is that 37% of the dollars spent on any exploration project stays right there within the region or municipality or indigenous community, and 97% of those dollars actually stay within the province. People are, by far, using contractors and consultants that are from BC and quite often are local. So the impact to British Columbia is significant. That’s on the exploration level – if you extrapolate services and supplies…job creation and then all the tax base that comes from the job creation – it is a significant bottom line at the end of the day.

MINING.COM: In November 2019 the provincial government passed the legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, UNDRIP, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission confirms as the framework for reconciliation.  British Columbia is home to 198 First Nations. In terms of advancements in reconciliation with Indigenous communities through agreements and partnerships embodying the principles of the UNDRIP, where is BC at in terms of First Nations reconciliation?

Johnston: In some respects we’ve come so far, and are leading the pack. With this new UNDRIP legislation, we are leaders around the world for how we interact with our indigenous communities. But looking through a different lens we are still very much at the early stages and at the very beginning. We look at the legislation, and we don’t really know how it’s going to move forward, we don’t really know what’s going to be included in the action plan and how its going to be shaped. Bill 41 really gives the government the power to implement UNDRIP to all of the other laws, so there’s going to be an action plan formed, out of Bill 41… we have a really long way to go to figure out what that looks like. We’ll continue to work with government to figure out how all those things get implemented. In that context, we’re still at the early stages of our story. In the 15 years I’ve been working in the field, the conversations have changed, vastly.

MINING.COM: Why should mining companies invest in exploration projects in British Columbia?

Johnston: Geology, number one. I’m a geologist, I believe in the passion of geology and finding good projects. Worldwide, we’re one of the safest jurisdictions to work in. We’ve got clear, concise policies and regulations. Our corporate controls are the best that are out there. If you’re comparing it to other provinces across [Canada], it’s a bit more of a level playing field, perhaps. But I think things like UNDRIP, and the fact that we are leading the pack with our conversations with our First Nations groups. And we have great people working in this province who are really engaged and want to move things forward.

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