Roundup Preview: BC mining and exploration off to a strong start after tumultuous 2022

Kendra Johnston, AME president. Image by AME.

With high interest rates, high inflation and reduced access to finance, 2022 was a challenging year for the mineral exploration sector.

But unofficial financial numbers point to a solid start for 2023 for exploration activity in British Columbia, says Kendra Johnston, the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C.’s president and CEO ahead of the organization’s annual Roundup event in Vancouver January 23-26.

“Our numbers are going to be quite strong this year,” she said in a recent interview. “Last year, we hit an almost-high of $660 million spent in the field, which was $8 million behind our previous high.”

Johnston notes that 2022 was marked by numerous financings for exploration before the market began to dry up.

During 2022, rampant inflation raised the cost of running exploration projects. “We look at the price of fuel and the war that’s happening overseas, there’s political upheaval in Peru, and most recently, it seems like there’s constant political upheaval to some degree in the United States. There’s just a lot going on in the world right now,” Johnston said.

“And it’s all overlaid by this conversation of the energy transition and the green future and the need for critical minerals that creates a push-pull dynamic of being able to get out into the field and explore for the critical minerals.”

Although the costs of exploration, including drilling and helicopter costs, were up this year, and financing was hard to capture, Johnston noted that the industry has never before had all levels of government aligned on the importance of minerals and metals for the energy transition, and with that, public support for the sector is starting to emerge.

The annual AME BC Roundup event will take place from Jan. 23-26 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East.