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B.C. mineral exploration spending ticked down in 2023

One mine shut down in 2023, two new mines poised to start producing
Defense Metals, which is developing the Wicheeda rare earths project, among the exploration companies that spent $645 million in B.C. in 2023. | Nelson Bennett

Spending on mineral exploration was down by nearly $100 million in 2023, compared to the record spending in 2022, and one operating mine shut down, according to Gordon Clarke of the BC Geological Survey's development office.

But two new gold mines are poised to go into production this year.

“Mining production and exploration expenditures decreased compared with 2022, albeit slightly,” Clarke said in a B.C. regional overview Monday at the Association of Mineral Exploration (AME) Roundup conference.

“Exploration programs still continue to produce excellent results, and advanced exploration continues to add to British Columbia’s mineral inventory. British Columbia continues to attract large investment dollars for both exploration and established mines.”

Mineral exploration companies spent $645 million in 2023, down from $740 million in 2022, which was a record year.

“That’s a trend that was across the country in Canada and around the world,” Clarke said.

New minerals claims were also down slightly in 2023, compared to 2022.

Most of the spending in 2024 was in metals, with just $26 million spent on coal. As in previous years, much of the mineral exploration spending was concentrated in B.C.’s northwest.

Significant mine development in 2023 occurred at three new mine projects, Clarke said: Premier Gold, Blackwater Gold and Horse Creek Silica.

Ascot Resources Ltd. (TSX: AOT; OTCQX: AOTVF) is aiming to pour first gold at its Premier gold mine in the first quarter of this year.

Clarke said construction the Artemis Gold Inc. (TSX-V: ARTG) Blackwater gold mine is 45 per cent complete, and the company has a production target of the third quarter this year.

On the negative side, the Myra Falls underground mine on Vancouver Island was shut down in December.

Significant M&A activity in 2023 included:

  • the acquisition of Newcrest Mining by Newmont Corp. (NYSE:NEM,TSX:NGT) for US$17 billion, with Newcrest assets including 70 per cent of Red Chris mine and 100 per cent of Brucejack mine;
  • Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.B, NYSE:TECK) proposed sale of its B.C. coal mines to Glencore plc (LSE:GLEN), Nippon Steel and POSCO for $12 billion; and
  • acquisition of 76 per cent of Copper Mountain mine in B.C. by Hudbay Minerals (TSX, NYSE: HBM) for $592 million.

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