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CONTRIBUTION · 7th May 2010
Minister Randy Hawes
Materials from mining are part of our everyday life - in the cars we drive, our homes, even our toothpaste. Products from mining are all around us, and mining is helping lead B.C.'s economic recovery.

Strong copper, coal and gold prices have increased demand for B.C. minerals. Our B.C. operating mines are profitable, expected mineral tax revenues are on the rise, and direct employment is growing. With this backdrop, the Province has declared May 9 to 15 Mining Week in B.C.

Mining Week aims to raise public awareness of the importance of mining and the collaboration between industry, government, First Nations, and communities to promote the industry. Our mining and mineral exploration sector helps fund vital social services such as health care and education and supports families right across northern B.C.

With about 60 per cent of Canada's exploration and mining companies based in the province, we have one of the most competitive tax and regulatory systems in the world. We have extended the Flow-Through Share Tax Credit for three years. Commencing in July, the industry will see benefits from the implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax. HST will save the mining industry about $55 million annually and industry has identified additional millions in savings for new mine development and construction.

This government is also committed to building the Northwest Transmission Line, which could stimulate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars worth of economic activity for B.C. It will also help support communities in the North in transitioning away from diesel generation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project could support the development of a number of new mines, taking advantage of the vast mineral potential in northern B.C. According to the Northwest Powerline Coalition's 2009 report Delivering Green Power to Northern British Columbia, the potential of mining in the Northwest equals 11 potential projects, $15 billion in possible investment, up to 10,000 jobs and $300 million in annual tax revenues. Shipping traffic at the Port of Stewart could also increase.

The Red Chris project has provincial and federal environmental assessment certificates and could be serviced by building an extension from the NTL.

The proposed Mt. Milligan copper-gold mine received approval from both provincial and federal agencies. It is poised for development, and is expected to begin construction this year.

Despite a difficult economic climate in 2009, B.C. saw the sixth highest total for exploration spending in the past 20 years at $154 million. Total exploration drilling was in excess of 350,000 metres during the year. The province had more than 350 exploration projects for minerals, coal, industrial minerals and aggregates.

The growth of mining means more jobs throughout B.C. There are about 28,000 people employed in the mining and minerals sector in more than 50 communities. Mining jobs pay excellent wages, averaging $112,800 with benefits, supporting families and our rural and pine beetle affected communities.

B.C. has contributed more than $4.8 million for mining education and skills training for rural communities and First Nations since 2005. The Province, along with the federal government, funded the Reclamation and Prospecting Program to provide youth from rural First Nations communities with the knowledge and skills to find employment in the mining industry. An additional $2 million was contributed in April 2009 to support the continued development and leadership and employment skills in First Nations communities in northern B.C.

That growth comes with environmental responsibility. We have among the most stringent environmental assessment laws in the world, and we are proud of that. We are working with the federal government to streamline the federal and provincial environmental assessment process. B.C.'s mining community is leading the way when it comes to protecting the environment and the sustainable development of our natural resources. B.C. was one of the first provinces to enact reclamation legislation and we are national leaders with award-winning reclamation projects throughout the province. About 18,000 hectares of former mines have been reclaimed, creating forests, grazing lands and wildlife habitats.

Mining is critical to our economic future, and we're working to ensure it remains a vital, sustainable industry. As we see signs of an economic recovery, the time is right to renew and reinvigorate the spirit of confidence and pride that has always been part of B.C.'s identity.