Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Notes from 2006 Mineral Exploration Roundup

I am sitting here in the room that been has provided by Bell to people at the conference to access the internet while at the Roundup.

Each year several thousand people come to the Bayshore in Vancouver for the Association of Mineral Exploration of BC's annual Exploration Roundup. This year it looks like there will be well over 5500 people attend the show. The Roundup is a good reminder that Vancouver remains one of the single most important locations in the world when it comes to mineral exploration. The number of mining juniors with offices in Vancouver is in the hundreds and they explore every corner of the world. Mongolia, Turkey, Mali, Botswana, Greenland, Quebec, Australia and more and more and more.

The man sitting next to me is exploring a sliver play in Mexico and enthusiastic that this his stock has risen some 60% in the last week - they released their first drill results of their project near Durango. The owners of these small companies are such wild optomists - all that shines is gold to them. Gold and Silver is only headed up, but then the last few years have seen dramatic natural resource prices. Copper is at wildly high levels around $2.50 a lb - a few years back it was in the $0.60 range. So, at the moment their wild optomism is proving to be accurate. But we need to optomists like this to have our society be able to have the natural resources it needs to function.

AME BC was know as the BC and Yukon Chamber of Mines - but as Dan Jepsen said when I asked him about the recent name change, "We have no mines and we do not cover the Yukon"

This is the 24th year of the Roundup and it is bigger than ever. Everyone that might have any interest in mineral exploration: mining juniors, majors, drillers, governments, geoscience companies, equipment suppliers, prospectors, engineering firms and still more. I am here because working with mineral exploration companies on the conflicts they have with Crown Land use has become one of the major business areas for my company.

The numbers of people here can be daunting - last night at the BC Night, the beer was flowwing and the ballroom was packed - it was really too many people to be able to have an useful conversations. The "3 metal room" hospitality suite was much more of a managable scale - Erin Airton is connected to the companies that put that one on.

In some ways the Roundup is almost too big - realistically I will be able to speak to maybe 100 people total. Even though the election was on Monday, Larry Bagnell, the MP for Yukon was here yesterday. I ran into Corky Evans and then 3 minutes later Ralph Sultan - and I know I have missed most of the people here because there are simply too many here.

This is the 4th year I have attended part of the Roundup and this year I can see how much more money there is around. An amazing number of the booths are holding draws for scotch, good scotch. People talking about dinners with $1000 bottles of wine. And of course, more free booze at night that is healthy for an adult.

Exploration in BC is up, way up from where it was a few years ago. Being here at the roundup it is clear that the commodity prices help, as does the end of the dot com craze, but it is so clear in this place that the change of government in 2001 in BC has been fundamentally crucial to the return of many of the people exploring. I am hearing a lot less about people commenting that Mali or Turkey are more attractive climates to work in than BC - and that was the case 3 years ago. Windy Craggy is almost receeded from the memories of people - thankfully people that explore are such optomists seem not to hold grudges when they have visions of nuggets of gold and mountians of copper

The fruits of the renewed exploration are beginning to show - there are new mines opening in BC. The last 2 years has seen several coal mines (coal is still king in BC), reopening of a number of older metallic mineral mines, and strong movement towards the opening of over 10 more mines in the next year or two.

Will we see a really big mine open anytime soon? Something like Placer Dome's Mount Milligan? I am reasonably confident that we will see that shortly. In the specific case of Mount Milligan, much depends on who will end up with that assest. Is it part of the properties that Barrick will sell to Silver Wheaton or will they hang onto it. And while either company choose to go ahead with it? The timeline for a decision from PDG has been for sometime early this year.

Clearly there are some important infrastructure issues that need to be addressed in BC, especially the north wast 1/4 of BC. There is a clear need for the Stewart Omineca Resource Road, the extention of the electrical grid up highway 37 and som clear plan to upgrade and extend the CN line in the Northwest (the former BC rail line). I was speaking to some people from Stewart and a number of the very advanced projects in the region, and their frustration with working in a world where having late 19th century infrastructure would be a huge benefit.

1 comment:

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