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Resilience in BC Mining Sector

The health and safety of employees and communities has always been important to British Columbia’s mining sector, where the standards for safe practices are among the highest in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the industry to take even greater measures to prevent transmission, protect workers and maintain safe operations to keep British Columbians working.

Mining in B.C. Builds Community
May is Mining Month in British Columbia. This year the industry moved events to an online format to continue building community relationships safely. Events included awards for Mining Person of the Year, Women in Mining and Mining for Miracles, all designed to highlight the exceptional leaders, companies, organizations and communities in the industry. The Mining Association of BC also hosted an online scavenger hunt, a new initiative to promote mineral literacy, industry pride and digital engagement.

Mining has a direct role in building communities in the province – by providing jobs and infrastructure to support the people who fill those jobs, as well as investing capital in exploration and development. For every direct job in mining, there are at least two jobs in mining supply and services, plus periphery jobs to build the roads, develop the homes and start the businesses that support mining towns. Strong community integration has helped the mining sector adapt to the challenges of COVID-19.

Mining in B.C. Invests in the Economy
A single operation supports jobs across the province, not just local to the mine. A mine in south central B.C. had a feasibility study prepared by an engineering firm in Vancouver, belting from a firm in Burnaby, conveyor systems by a company in Surrey, explosives from a company in Williams Lake, fuel and steel balls from companies in Kamloops and truck tires from a company with a head office in Vernon. Such a broad reach means there are many hands to carry any burdens on the industry; by distributing the pressures of COVID-19 evenly, the industry is strong enough to adapt and get through the crisis together.

Mining in B.C. is Environmentally Responsible
British Columbia has some of the world’s most rigorous regulations in place to manage a mine’s environmental impact at all stages. Assessments are managed by the BC Environmental Assessment Office, a neutral regulatory agency that works with various experts and stakeholders, including communities and Indigenous groups, to ensure environmental transparency and local support. These measures garner community buy-in, making it easier to do business and keeping operations flexible to new situations.

Notably, British Columbia’s mining companies are among the lowest GHG emission-intensive in the world. The industry is also crucial to developments in clean technology. Read more about how B.C.’s copper industry supports the clean tech industry.

The Future of Mining in BC
What will mining in British Columbia look like in the new, post Coronavirus normal? Changes implemented during the pandemic could have lasting impacts in how the industry does business. Some technologies that were already in play will likely become more prominent features. Teleconferencing and video conferencing will continue to enhance collaboration across geographic distances and make it possible for people to conduct some work remotely.

Other innovations are more specific to the mining industry. LlamaZOO’s MineLife is a virtual reality platform that creates a 1:1 scale digital twin of a mine site. The program can create visual representations of almost any kind of data, including the geography, locations of drill holes, equipment, specific locations of ores and even the local flora, fauna and community information. Using MineLife, planners, project partners and community stakeholders can virtually “walk” or fly through a planned mine project that’s overlaid on an explorable and interactive 3D map.

LlamaZOO is also one of 15 startups selected for an international initiative designed to connect new technologies with enterprise companies. The 12-month program with Prospect Mining Studio is intended to help companies build and scale technologies through a network of partners that can collectively develop new insights into the field of mining.

Virtual and remote components have always been on the horizon for the mining industry, but COVID-19 sped up the timeline and proved how valuable they are. British Columbia is a leading jurisdiction for mining with rich, diverse mineral deposits in every corner of the province. The province is Canada’s largest producer of copper, largest exporter of steelmaking coal and only national producer of molybdenum. The enhanced safety measures, remote work options and other innovations implemented during the pandemic will ensure British Columbia remains among one of the world’s leading markets for mining standards.

Interested in mining opportunities in British Columbia? Read our other article on COVID-19 resources and the resilience of British Columbia’s business community or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates.