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Mining prospects look bullish

Prince George Citizen - By Gordon Hoekstra

January 25,2011

Annual mineral exploration in British Columbia has skyrocketed again, more than doubling in 2010 over the previous year, the B.C. government announced Monday.
Nearly three quarters of that spending took place in northern B.C.
Spending reached $322 million in 2010, well up from spending of $154 million in 2009, when the sector was suffering from a global recession.
The bulk of the spending, $172 million, took place in northwestern British Columbia. Another $37 million was spent in the north-central B.C.'s Omineca region, while $20 million was spent in the northeast.
The $322 million in spending is the third highest level of invesment -- behind $416 million in 2007 and $367 million in 2008 -- but well above a low of $29 million in 2001.
"This is a remarkable turnaround for the mining industry, which shows continued steady growth from the lows of the 1990s," said Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes.
Mineral exploration spending covers all the work that goes into locating and establishing a mineral body that can be turned into a mine.
Prince George-based IRL Supplies Ltd. is one of the benefactors from the resurgent exploration sector in the past decade.
IRL Supplies, which employs about 20 people at its Prince George base, has everything to set up an exploration camp, except the heavy industrial diamond drills.
That includes hand tools like rock picks, as well as wall tents, diesel stoves and sluice boxes.
IRL, which has always serviced the forest sector, returned to the mining sector seven years ago just as mining exploration started to turnaround.
"It's certainly helped us," says IRL Supplies president Tony Romeyn.
The B.C. Liberal government has been trying to foster the mining sector, in part to help diversify the forest-based economy in north and central B.C., which will lose jobs as a result of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
The government has adopted a number of mining-friendly policies and actions including providing tax credits, eliminating the provincial sales tax on mining machinery and equipment, and upgrading and building roads.
The government has also streamlined regulations, and recently introduced revenue sharing with First Nations for new mines.
B.C. Forests and Mining Minister Pat Bell said he is confident this type of policy will help to strengthen relationships with First Nations.
Because First Nations often have undefined rights to large portions of land, it can create an uncertain business environment for mining.
The mining sector lauded the increased investment in 2010.
"This year's figures are representative of the increased drilling and sampling that is required to find and build tomorrow's mines for the benefit of all British Columbians," said Gavin Dirom, president and CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.
In addition to exploration spending, the mining industry invested more than $1 billion in 2010 to expand existing operations and to develop new mines in B.C.
Among the investment projects is a $500-million upgrade and expansion at the Endako molybdenum mine west of Prince George.
Preliminary work has also started on the $900-million Mount Milligan gold and copper mine, located 155 kilometres northwest of Prince George.