BC’s Association for Mineral Exploration turns 100

A century of supporting mining and exploration through a strong membership

by Jessica Kirby

The Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC) entered its 100th year this April, launching a series of celebratory events during Exploration Days at the Britannia Mine Museum in Britannia Beach, B.C.

AME BC is the predominant voice of mineral exploration and development in British Columbia. The association represents nearly 5,000 members including geoscientists, prospectors, engineers, entrepreneurs, exploration companies, suppliers, mineral producers and associations who are engaged in mineral exploration and mine development in B.C. and throughout the world.

Michael McPhie, chair of AME BC and co-chair of the Britannia Beach Historical Society, released a statement saluting “the thousands of men and women who have contributed to the success of AME BC and the B.C. mineral exploration and development industry over the past century.”

Rich history

AME BC was originally formed in 1912 as the Vancouver Mining Club, with Robert R. Hedley as president. The value of mineral production reached a new record of $32 million that year – compared to $9.9 billion in 2011. It was renamed the Vancouver Chamber of Mines later in that year, then became the British Columbia Chamber of Mines in 1921, the British Columbia & Yukon Chamber of Mines in 1945 and finally took its current name in December 2005.

Since then it has grown to include more than 4,800 members from across Canada and 37 other countries. B.C.’s mineral exploration and mining industry is responsible for thousands of jobs and has contributed more than $700 billion to the economy over the province’s history.
“Over the past century, our members have explored throughout British Columbia and the world, and our 100th anniversary gives us the opportunity to celebrate their great accomplishments,” said Gavin C. Dirom, president and CEO of AME BC.

“The word is out that British Columbia is a great place to headquarter your company and to look for, and develop, new mineral deposits. There are now more than 1,200 mineral exploration and mining companies based in the province, and with $463 million spent in 2011, last year made history as a record breaker for mineral exploration expenditures in B.C.”

Three top priorities

Today the association acts as an industry advocate for its membership, acting on three main priorities for furthering mineral exploration in British Columbia.

“The first and most fundamental area is the issue of having access to land to explore, discover and develop mineral resources,” said Dirom. “AME BC will be developing and widely sharing information that shows the actual impact of land-use designations in the province.”
Relating to this is advocating for fair market value compensation for tenure holders where parks or de facto parks are created, along with legislation like the proposed Natural Resources Roads Act.

Challenges to obtaining permits and aboriginal relations are also areas of concern for AME BC members, who are calling for consistency and co-ordination in the permitting processes and consultation timelines with aboriginal communities.

“As part of this continuing effort, we will help government to implement an online permit tracking information system for notice of work applications and support the new major projects and investment initiatives announced by Premier Clark last fall,” said Dirom.

AME BC is also pursuing ongoing relationships with the B.C. First Nation Energy and Mining Council and the Industry Council for Aboriginal Business, with the objective of enhancing mutual understanding and development opportunities. 

A final objective is supporting and promoting the importance of mineral exploration and mining to the general public.

“We must all work to establish a deeper appreciation and a more common understanding of the value of minerals to everyone’s daily lives,” said Dirom. “Outreach and education will continue to be the other major area of AME BC's focus in the effort to increase the public’s and government’s understanding and support for low-impact mineral exploration.”

The future looks bright

British Columbia’s success and progress in mineral exploration have attracted skilled workers in prospecting, engineering, environmental science, technology, geoscience and other related fields.

“I have no doubt that the industry will attract new, energetic, bright and hardworking people,” said Dirom, “and will continue to develop partnerships with educational institutions that will build lasting technical, legal, financial and public policy capacity for many generations to come.”

The association lends strength to the industry and to members who are currently reporting difficulty in raising venture capital amidst lower prices for commodities. Although the slowdown could result in less exploration work by junior and mid-tier companies, the return of larger companies to B.C. should offset the decline. 

“Undeniably, challenges certainly do exist to discover the mineral riches hidden beneath the earth, to move projects forward in timely manner and to develop profitable mines to the net benefit of all,” said Dirom. “It’s clear that balancing the interests of society and our collective need for using minerals in our daily lives, while respecting the environment and operating safely, are not mutually exclusive goals. It can be done, and in fact, it must be done in order to be responsible stewards of the mineral resources.”

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