Wednesday, May 16, 2007

B.C.'s vital mining industry well worth celebrating

Michael McPhie
Special to the Sun
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's Mining Week in communities throughout British Columbia. However, many of us living in Greater Vancouver probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about mining, even though it affects our lives every day, and generates enormous wealth for the province.

Whether we are talking on our cell phone, driving our car, riding the SkyTrain, or working on our computer, all these things start with mining.

Consider that a typical cellphone has 16 grams of copper in it. The average computer is typically made up of 40 per cent steel, 10 per cent aluminum and 10 per cent other metals, including lead, copper, gold, silver, cadmium and platinum.

Many of these minerals that are so important to our daily lives are produced here in B.C., providing long-term, high-paying jobs and numerous economic and social benefits to communities.

How often do we consider mining's significant contribution to our province's well-being? The industry generates more than $7 billion in economic activity in B.C. each year (with estimates of a further $7 billion in economic spin-offs), employs more than 10,000 British Columbians directly and more than 28,000 indirectly.

Mining is also the highest-paying resource sector employer in the province, with average compensation of $94,500 per year. The success of the mining industry also provides benefits to all British Columbians by contributing approximately $785 million each year in direct taxation, fees and royalties to all levels of government. Whether you are living in Smithers, Surrey or Saanich, this revenue from mining helps to pay for social programs like health care and education.

As we celebrate Mining Week, approximately 34 mining projects in the province are in the B.C. environmental assessment process or in permitting. This represents a potential for $7.5 billion in new investment and an additional 12,000 direct jobs.

B.C. is no small player when it comes to mining. Our province has the largest concentration of mining and related service companies in the world, and is a leading source of investment financing and engineering expertise for the global mining industry.

Vancouver also benefits tremendously, with more than 850 mining development and exploration company offices employing thousands of people from all walks of life.

While some might consider mining and sustainability to be an oxymoron, it is far from it. Mining is an essential part of the pursuit for a more environmentally sustainable economy.

For example, an electric bus can have up to 9,200 pounds of copper in it. A hybrid car has 30 pounds more copper and 20 pounds more nickel than a standard car. Increasing the aluminum content in vehicles makes them lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient. Consider that silver is a significant component in more than 90 per cent of solar panels manufactured today, and graphite is an important component of fuel cell engine technology for clean energy vehicles.

It is clear that the public benefits of any given mine far outweigh the costs. Today's mining sector is continually working to update and improve environmental stewardship measures.

The ecological footprint of mining is relatively small given the wealth and opportunity created. Mining in B.C. generates all of its economic activity in an area that represents less than 0.05 per cent of the province's land base. That's less than 28,000 hectares. This is an extraordinary contribution from an area about the size of one mid-size town.

To showcase the industry's commitment to sustainability, the Mining Association of B.C. and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources initiated the Mining and Sustainability Award. This award is designed to publicly recognize the diverse companies, communities, first nations, non-governmental organizations, government agencies and individuals committed to advancing and promoting sustainable development in the B.C. mining sector.

Importantly, mining also offers first nations an opportunity to build capacity and gain economic independence. As the largest private sector employer of aboriginal people in Canada, the mining sector is a leader in the development of meaningful relationships with first nations. Aboriginal communities have a vital role to play in shaping the ever-improving sustainability of mining in our province and being partners in the prosperity it brings.

Mining is making a positive difference in the lives of all British Columbians.

Michael McPhie is the president and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia

No comments: