Mining is a major contributor to the BC economy in form of employment, taxes and exports. There are eight minerals currently being mined in BC: Gold, silver, copper, zinc, aluminum, lead and molybdenum.
Mining generated over $3 billion in revenue, and $89 million in government taxes last year. Mining provides nearly 7,000 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs, and pays the highest wages and benefits of any industry–an average of $81,100/year.
The actual land usage for a mine is small, relative to the area explored. In BC, less than 28,000 hectares are currently being mined, which is less than 0.03% of BC?s total land base.
In comparison, forestry has a much larger footprint. In 1993, forestry harvested 221,599 hectares, while mining used 157 hectares. That same year, there were 103 km of roads and trails built for mineral exploration, while there were 11,400 km of logging roads built.
Mining represents the highest value use to which a hectare of land can be put. While Forestry gets $5700 per hectare, and agriculture a mere $1400, mining brings in, on average, $150,000 per hectare used.
However, not everything is coming up roses for the mining industry. In 2001, exploration expenditures were $10 million, less than 10% of 1990 levels. In the last ten years, two mines have closed for every new mine that has opened. As of 2002, there were only 12 active mines in the province, one of which (Bullmoose) has since ceased operations. And between 2001 and 2002, the number of direct mine employees decreased by almost 1000 people, or more than 10% of the total workforce.
But Pine Valley Coal will start operations later this year, and Western Canadian Coal should be starting construction of it?s new mine in the Wolverine Valley sometime this fall.
Coal still sees most of BC?s mining activity. In 2002, coal mining made up 38% of the total net mining revenues, and employed 42% of mine workers in the province. With Bullmoose now closed, all of that activity is happening in the southeastern coalfields around Fernie and Elkford.