B.C. mining boom triggers new gold rush
Published Monday, September 17, 2012 9:00PM PDT
Mining industry revenues in B.C. have doubled over the past eight years, reaching more than $9.8 billion in 2011 -- but not everyone is excited about the new prospects.
As industries like forestry are shedding jobs, mining is in the midst of a major boom; the industry spent a record $463 million on exploration in the province last year alone, and it employs more than 9,000 hydrologists, geologists, financiers and engineers.
If you include all the positions in the mining sector, it accounts for roughly 28,000 jobs.
Among the gainfully employed is Adam Wickstead, principal at Aeronigma Solutions, who’s already cashing in on the frenzy of mineral exploration in B.C.
A logistics man, Wickstead’s company helps miners get equipment to exploration sites.
“Fedex won’t do the nasty, dirty work that we do,” he said.
And that dirty work pays well – after only three years in operation, Wickstead’s company is doing about $4 million in business annually.
Back in 2004, B.C.’s mining industry accounted for just $4.5 billion, but the recent boom isn’t just due to the high demand for metals. Miners in the north are about to get a lifeline of much-needed electricity courtesy of the province’s taxpayers.
BC Hydro’s half-billion dollar Northwest Transmission Line will run 344 kilometres from Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake and power as many as nine new mines proposed for the area.
“For the northwest part of the province, mining is going to be a big part of their future,” B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman said.
Helping feed the projects will also be the Forrest Kerr project, a $730-million power plant currently under construction by Calgary-based energy company AltaGas.
The project is scheduled to open in 2014, and will see the Iskut River race down a three-kilometre tunnel and through a turbine, creating enough power to meet the needs of 70,000 homes – though the plant isn’t being constructed for residential supply. A second plant has also been approved nearby.
Mining has its share of opponents, however, including First Nations activists, environmentalists and those in the eco-tourism industry.
For more on their concerns, and answers to the serious questions raised by the mining boom in B.C., tune in to the exclusive CTV News series, The Big Dig.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Ed Watson