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Business Report: Mining Industry in Bc

In: Business and Management

Submitted By lamadrid
Words 1767
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Introduction

The exploration and utilization of resources has played a significant role in the development of Canada. Most socio-economic achievements in Canada’s history have been closely related to natural resources. While activities such as fishing and agriculture have traditionally paved the way, perhaps none has contributed to Canada’s economic prosperity like the mining industry. As the sector continues to grow, so does Canada’s reputation as one of the world’s leading mining nations. Canada is one of the world’s top producers of major commodities such as uranium, nickel, cobalt, and more. With a pullback in performance over the past years, I expect the industry to rebound, as economic growth in China and the United States will increase resource demand.

Despite the positive outlook, this is still a highly controversial industry. Many key drawbacks such as pollution, low employment, and high level of risk have made the mining world a highly criticized industry. The sector plays a crucial role in the economic, social and environmental stability of the country, making it a focal point for the government. Both industry participants and the government must work together to improve and stabilize the mining industry for British Columbia.

This report is divided into 3 sections:

• Section I outlines the history of the industry, leading up to the present.
• Section II, which will provide an overview of the current state of British Columbia’s mining industry, includes the industry’s size, major players, and contribution to the economy.
• Section III presents disadvantages of the sector, as well as efforts of restoration.

Section 1: History

Ranging back to the mid 19th century, British Columbia has been one of the most recognized mining regions around the world. In the 1950’s, gold was discovered along the Fraser River on Canada’s Western Cordillera (“150 Years of Mining”). News of gold findings reached California during an economic depression, where many miners were longing such a finding. Word spread quickly, and miners set their sights on British Columbia. Entrepreneurs quickly joined in, not to make money from the gold, but from the miners.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, which had traditionally thrived in fur trade, was soon introduced to a new type of client. As miners and entrepreneurs thrived on the region’s abundance of resources, residents were now shopping with gold and cash rather than fur. Some even attribute the settlement of foreign townships in the region to the Gold Rush (Hudson’s Bay Company, 2013). British Columbia’s population increased dramatically with the infrastructure available to miners. Soon enough, they had the freedom to explore vaster parts of the province with greater results and augmented returns.

The rise in productivity led to further innovation. In the century after the Gold Rush, research resulted in greater feasibility of unexplored operation practices. Mining activities up to this time had mostly been done underground. In the 1960’s, however, the concept and viability of open-pit production became a reality, allowing miners to extract rock and minerals from an open borrow (“open-pit”). Copper mines began to open and among them was Highland Valley Copper. To date, Highland Valley Copper continues to be the largest open-pit operation in North America (“150 years of mining”).

Section 2: Current Condition

British Columbia’s current mineral production is at all time highs. Spending has increased year after year, while mining companies from around the world make Vancouver their base for operations. The following indicate increased economic performance within the mining industry

Highlights:

• B.C.’s mining exploration spending in 2012 eclipsed $680 million. This is up from $463 million in 2011.*

• Last year, B.C.’s mineral production generated revenues of $9.2 billion.*

• The mining sector made up about 30% of B.C.’s 2012 exports.*

• Gross revenue from mining operations has increased by roughly 50% over the last decade (Vancouver Economic Commission).

• More than 1,000 exploration sites exist across the province. Vancouver is also base to over 800 mining companies from around the world (Vancouver Economic Commission).

*(“Mining strategy 2012, 2012”)

During the economic downturn of 2008, there was a shortage of global demand for British Columbia’s natural resources. Consequently, investments into mining exploration and research decreased dramatically. Many companies failed to survive and many jobs were lost. Relative to the amount of money mining brings in, the industry has been widely criticized due to its low employment figures. But in the following years leading up to today, demand and spending have increased once again, exceeding the 2008 level prior to the global recession.

Last year, over 30,000 people were employed in relation to the mining industry (“Mining strategy 2012”, 2012). 10,419 workers were employed directly, up from 9,310 in 2011 (“Mining facts”, 2013). While not a significant number, it remains a steady leap up from its recession lows. As seen in the figures above, a large part of jobs are indirectly linked to mining activity. These jobs include “mining support services such as geological research, business administration, finance, management, engineering and environmental consulting” (Vancouver Economic Commission).

Advantages

British Columbia has many things going for it in terms of mining, both geographically and economically. The mountains are an extremely rich home to an abundance of minerals needed around the world. Historically, the lack of proper technology posed a threat to the excavation of these minerals, especially in an environmentally sound manner. But with the proper technological advancement, the safe extraction and distribution of resources has continued to increase. The stable growth of Vancouver as a mining centre has been made possible by the abundance of financial, environmental, and geological modelling firms that practice in the area. Their presence has allowed British Columbia to compete and excel against major companies around the world.

Perhaps the greatest asset is Vancouver’s location. Its proximity to Asia, as well as transportation links to surrounding mines gives it a crucial competitive edge. The port of Vancouver provides a sound distribution channel to an Asian market that leads the world in resource demand (Vancouver Economic Commission). This is why economic instability in countries like China has such a significant impact on the health of British Columbia’s mining industry.

Section 3: Disadvantages and Restoration Efforts:

Pollution

Leaching and acidic drainage of metals pose a significant threat to the province’s surrounding environment. These emissions often cause impacts on the health of water and resulting marine ecosystems. Along with waste rock and mine tailings, mining activities are a major concern for the health of the environment ("Pollution and waste," 2013). Legal action has been a large driver of restoration efforts along with a growing conscience of companies. It is important to note that both companies and the government are now working together in efforts to restore B.C.’s natural features.

Presently, British Columbia’s mining community is setting a vital example. British Columbia was one of the first provinces to pass rehabilitation and reclamation legislation. This action has led the way in sustainable protection of the environment and the residents of surrounding communities, making it one of the “safest heavy industries in this province” (Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources).

As of March 2013, the provincial government has spent approximately $160 million dollars of an available $276 million on the remediation of contaminated sites. From that, more than 18,000 hectares of previous mining sites have been restored to their pre-mining, natural state. Though active mining sites undergo extensive reclamation efforts, most aspects of environmental recovery continue many years after the mine’s finality. Most notably, tourist attractions such as the Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver have been rehabilitated from prior mining pits (Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources).

High Risk

As a mining industry participant there are also many concerns unrelated to the surrounding environment. While aggregate economic performance has stabilized, a high level of competition has left individual companies in ruins. The following risks vary depending on a given company’s size. We will refer to companies as ‘majors’ and ‘juniors’:

Majors: Main risk: Balancing their long-term growth strategies with the demands of their yield-hungry shareholders.

• There is a strong conflict of interests between miners who invest for long-term growth, and the shareholders who work with a short-term return horizon.

• There is cause for concern that decisions made by mining companies today can damage shareholder value over the long term. Juniors: Main risk: Survival

• Sell-offs in equity markets, especially in times of low performance and economic downturn, have continually starved junior mining companies from necessary capital.

• Currently, we are experiencing a market of very distinct characteristics. There is a brittle balance between investors seeking high return, and those of low risk tolerance. *(“EY”, 2013)

Conclusion

There is reason to be optimistic as a participant of the mining industry. As a whole, the economic and environmental aspects outlined in this report have improved dramatically over the past years. Economically, the industry’s employment figures, net exports and contribution to output continue to grow. The coalition between companies and legislation has reduced harmful emissions as well as restore the balance and stability of surrounding ecosystems. While future outlook is greatly uncertain due to the volatility of the mining industry, continuous collaborative efforts will be crucial in ensuring ongoing success.

References

British Columbia. (n.d.). History of mining in b.c.. Retrieved September 22, 2013, from http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Pages/History.aspx

British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources. (n.d.). 150 years of mining. Retrieved September 22, 2013, from www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Sustainability/Documents/SustainableFuture.pdf

British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, (2012). Mining strategy 2012. Retrieved from website: www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Strategy2012/Pages/default.aspx

Energy and Mines Ministers' Conference, (2013). Mining sector performance report 1998-2012. Retrieved from website: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/minerals-metals/sites

Environment Canada, (2013). Pollution and waste - mining. Retrieved from website: http://www.ec.gc.ca/pollution/default.asp?lang=En&n=C6A98427-1

EY. (2013). Business risks in mining and metals 2013-2014. Retrieved from http://www.ey.com/GL/en/Industries/Mining---Metals/Business-risks-in-mining-and-metals-2013-2014--The-focus-of-risk-has-swung

Hudson's Bay Company. (2013). Our history. Retrieved September 22, 2013, from http://www2.hbc.com/hbc/history/

Mining Association of British Columbia, (2013). Mining facts. Retrieved from website: http://www.mining.bc.ca/mining-facts

open-pit. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/open-pit

Vancouver Economic Commission. (n.d.). Mining. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from http://www.vancouvereconomic.com/page/mining…...

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