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Exploration and Mining in British Columbia - 1998

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By M.S. Cathro, R. Lane, R.H. Pinsent, T. Schroeter, H.P. Wilton and P. Wojdak

This free publication summarizes mineral exploration, development and mining undertaken in British Columbia during 1998. It is available from any of the regional offices.

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Geologist's Regions

TABLE OF CONTENTS (click for details)
By Paul Wilton
Regional Geologist Cranbrook
By Tom G. Schroeter, P. Eng.
Senior Regional Geologist, Vancouver
By Paul Wojdak, P. Geo.
Regional Geologist, Smithers
By Bob Lane, P. Geo.
Regional Geologist, Prince George
By R.H. Pinsent, P. Geo.
Regional Geologist, Vancouver
By Michael S. Cathro, P. Geo.
Regional Geologist, Kamloops
By H.P. Wilton, P. Eng.
Regional Geologist, Cranbrook


The total exploration expenditure in British Columbia in 1998 is estimated at between $35 million and $40 million, a dramatic reduction of approximately 50% from the $75 million total in 1997. Four of the five regions experienced sharp reductions ranging from 24% in the Kootenay region to 77% in the South-Central region. Only the Southwestern region reported an expenditure level which was roughly the same as in 1997, although two-thirds of the total was spent on one project, mine-site exploration at Myra Falls. Similarly, in the Northwest region, one company, Homestake Canada Inc. working in the Eskay Creek area, accounted for 45% of the total expenditure and 55% of the total drilling recorded in the region. Of the provincial expenditure total, it is estimated that only about 10% was on grassroots or generative projects, a situation of significant concern that has shown no improvement since 1997. About 33% was spent around minesites and the remainder on advanced projects. All five regions reported major reductions in the amount of exploration drilling, the provincial total being estimated at approximately 170 000 metres, 58% less than the 407 000 metres recorded in 1997.

Although all statistical indicators confirm that 1998 was a very bad year for exploration in British Columbia, the situation was not unique to this province. Low metal prices, coupled with the Asian economic crisis, resulted in abnormally restrained investment in mining exploration and development worldwide. To help ensure a viable mining industry in the long term, the British Columbia government introduced the BC Mining Initiative during 1998, which is designed to encourage and assist exploration and to improve the climate for secure mining investment in the province. This initiative includes a Mining Rights Amendment Act, which assures access to mineral tenures, promotes fair compensation for tenure expropriation for park creation and confirms the right to mine new discoveries, and a new Mineral Exploration Code, intended to create a one-window approach to permitting. A Mining Exploration Tax Credit was introduced, effective August 1, 1998, which provides a refundable tax credit of 20% on qualified exploration expenditures. Reviewability thresholds under the Environmental Assessment Act were raised and streamlined in order to simplify and accelerate development approvals of new mine projects. Continuation of the Prospectors Assistance Grant Program and field activities of the Geological Survey Branch, particularly in frontier areas with recognized high mineral potential, were among several other programs designed to spur grassroots exploration leading to new mineral discovery.

The value of solid mineral production in 1998 is estimated at about $3 billion, a decrease of 4.8% from 1997, mainly due to lower commodity prices, especially for coal. The loss of production due to lower prices was partly offset by the opening of the Kemess South gold-copper mine, the re-opening of the Blackdome gold-silver mine, achievement of full production levels at the Huckleberry and Mount Polley copper mines, and increased silver-gold production at Eskay Creek. Only one mine, the QR gold mine, closed during 1998. However, the Gibraltar copper-molybdenum mine stopped mining and milling in December with full closure expected early in 1999. Mine Development Certificates were issued under the Environmental Assessment Act to the Tulsequah Chief polymetallic mine and to the Willow Creek coal project. The Silvertip silver-lead-zinc project near the Yukon border entered the Environmental Review process and reviews continued on the Prosperity, Getty North, Red Chris and other projects.

Favoured exploration targets in 1998 continued to include precious metal and polymetallic veins, copper-gold porphyries and skarn/manto deposits. However, polymetallic massive sulphide deposits became, for the first time in many years, the most favoured targets accounting for about 37% of the total expenditure. Leading the way were major programs in the vicinity of the Myra Falls and Eskay Creek mines. Other major programs of interest included ongoing definition drilling by Taseko Mines Ltd. at the Prosperity porphyry gold-copper deposit, deep drilling and metallurgical testing by Misty Mountain Gold Ltd. at the Specogna epithermal gold deposit on Graham Island and drilling by Kennecott Canada Exploration Inc. for Sullivan-type sedex mineralization on the Findlay project in the Kootenays.

Part A of this publication contains a review of exploration and mining highlights in each of the five regions, contributed by the Regional Geologists in Smithers, Prince George, Vancouver, Kamloops and Cranbrook. The regional reviews are preceded by a provincial overview paper contributed by Tom Schroeter of the Vancouver Mineral Development Office. Part B of the publication contains several geological descriptions of specific properties. Final compilation and preparation of the volume for publication was carried out by Bob Lane, Regional Geologist in Prince George, with the assistance of Dorthe Jakobsen of the Geological Survey Branch and after thorough editing by external editor, John Newell.

Paul Wilton
Regional Geologist

This page last updated: June 24, 1999

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