Op-Ed: British Columbia celebrates Mining Month in May 2024

Blackwater gold mine in British Columbia. Image by Artemis Gold.

May is Mining Month in British Columbia, an ideal time to recognize and celebrate this cornerstone industry in our province. Mining moves us, connects us, and allows us to innovate. It drives and builds our technology and is the very foundation of almost everything around us, from the copper, gold and silver used in electrical equipment, smartphones, and healthcare equipment to the critical minerals that build the batteries, wind turbines and solar panels that are essential to fighting climate change.

Mining is one of B.C.’s largest industries and a foundational part of our economy, providing economic benefits in communities across the province. Last year, mineral exploration expenditures reached C$643.5 million, 94% higher than this government’s first year in office, and mining production value is forecast to be up 57% since that time. In fact, looking over the past five years, exploration spending has totalled C$2.8 billion with mining production at over C$60 billion. 

As Minister responsible for mining I take immense pride in our government’s accomplishments in supporting and growing the mining industry, but the industry’s successes are all possible because of the hard-working people at the heart of every aspect of mining. This industry is built by the determination of prospectors, expertise of geologists, support of suppliers, innovation of manufacturers, vision of investors and – most important of all – the dedication of tens of thousands of men and women who make mining their life’s work.

Step onto any mine site today, and many British Columbians might be surprised to find mining is not what they thought it was. Innovative, low-carbon practices like electric-powered machinery are creating cleaner and more efficient operations. Digital technologies are improving productivity and reducing waste. And diversity is helping to shape the future of mining, with women now making up over one in six workers and growing, something that wasn’t even imagined 35 or 40 years ago.

Mining and mineral exploration is also the largest private-sector employer of Indigenous peoples in remote communities in B.C., which is vitally important to recognize as First Nations have a critical role in the sector. First Nations’ cultural links to the land stretch across centuries, offering perspectives that are essential for driving progress in the industry, and their partnership and participation in the industry are essential for further growth.

Just as today’s miners can reflect on their work with pride, the next generation of miners and explorers can look forward to long and rewarding careers, as innovation and robust environmental, social and governance standards continue to strengthen B.C.’s mining sector. Men and women today have access to training to upgrade their skills to keep pace with an evolving industry that is committed to ongoing job security, the highest standards of health and safety, and a strong focus on remediation and environmental sustainability.

The year ahead promises to be marked by milestones, as we welcome two major mines starting or resuming operations: Premier Gold, near Stewart, and Blackwater Gold, southwest of Prince George. And we will continue to make progress on our BC Critical Minerals Strategy, guiding us to further boost critical minerals development, maintain sector competitiveness, advance reconciliation and attract new investment, while driving sustainable economic growth with jobs and opportunities for all British Columbians.

We are taking action to create more efficient processes and permitting while maintaining high environmental standards. B.C. has made significant progress on permitting timelines, including a 52 per cent reduction in the backlog of exploration permits since 2022. Budget 2024 reaffirms our commitment to a low carbon economy with C$24 million to ensure that we continue to reduce permitting backlogs and enable access to the critical minerals we need for a low carbon economy and future.

The success of the mining sector is founded on the hard work of people from across the province whose commitment to excellence and perseverance is truly inspiring. My Ministry and I cannot express enough gratitude to explorers, miners and their families, and all those who support this vital industry.

Generations of British Columbia families have enjoyed security and a good life in mining, and in their names, I am proud to proclaim May 2024 Mining Month in British Columbia.

Hon Josie Osborne is Minister of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation