Clark touts mining growth
VANCOUVER – Premier Christy Clark welcomed delegates to an international mining exploration conference last Monday with a prediction of record investment in the B.C. industry this year.
“Last year, as you know, was a record-breaking year for mining exploration, $462 million,” Clark said in a speech that previews the coming election campaign.
“Compare that to the 1990s, when $26 million a year in exploration was underway. We’ve come a long way in 12 years, and it’s pretty tough to beat those record-breaking years.”
She predicted that mark will be shattered with another 47 per cent increase, mostly due to a few large projects now underway.
While exploration is up, five mining expansions are permitted to proceed in the province.
They are: Endako Mines’ molybdenum mine at Fraser Lake in Central B.C.; Teck’s Highland Valley copper mine at Logan Lake in the Okanagan; Huckleberry Mine, an open-pit copper and molybdenum mine near Dease Lake in northwestern B.C.; Quinsam Coal, an underground thermal coal mine on Vancouver Island; and Elkview, a Teck metallurgical coal mine near Sparwood in the Kootenays.
Conference delegates applauded another recent development, the first mineral royalty sharing agreements with aboriginal people for Huckleberry Mine and New Afton, an expansion of a Kamloops-area copper mine.
Clark also touted an improvement in permit approval times for land and water use as well as “notice of work” permits. The waiting time has been reduced from 110 days to 80 days, and another $7 million will be spent to get it down to 60 days, she said.
NDP mining critic Doug Donaldson said the B.C. Liberal government is still working to fix a problem it created, when mining permit time went from 55 days in 2007 to 110 days by 2011. The 60-day target for notice-of-work permits was supposed to be met in November, Donaldson added.
Clark also took aim at another prominent election issue, the need for skilled trades training. She said the public school system is making a mistake when it spends 13 years and billions of dollars, then tells students they need a degree before they can work.
High schools and post-secondary institutions are getting new equipment and more access to instructors so they can enter the workforce sooner, she said.
“Let’s cut completion time for trades training in half, and let’s stop training people for jobs that don’t exist,” Clark said.
A major part of the NDP campaign for the May election will be focused on overall cuts to post-secondary funding in recent B.C. Liberal budgets.