AME Roundup in Vancouver is one of the largest annual gatherings of the global mineral exploration industry and there will be lots to celebrate this year including British Columbia’s performance in 2021 and the province’s prospects for 2022, says Kendra Johnston, AME’s president and CEO.
The Canadian province is on track to excel on a number of metrics in 2021, the geologist and mining executive says, and the final numbers will be released at AME Roundup, including the amount of money spent on exploration in the province last year, the number of metres drilled, and the tally of money raised.
“2021 was a really, really strong year,” Johnston says in a pre-conference interview. “British Columbia is a centre of excellence for mineral exploration and this year reinforced it. Explorers who live and have their home bases here are getting out into B.C. to explore.”
Indeed, the amount of money raised for exploration in the province in the first eleven months of 2021 hit $654 million, up from the C$451 million raised in all of 2020, and there’s potential for it to meet or exceed the record set in 2012 of C$680 million, Johnston says.
The number of metres drilled in the province has also been impressive, at 1.2 million metres, she said, “and we are on track for 1.5 million.” Last year the 12-month total was 991,000 metres.
One of the advantages B.C. offers exploration companies is its straightforward regulatory system, Johnston says. “Our system is transparent and so folks can get out on the ground relatively easily and start work.”
British Columbia M&As
The province certainly saw its fair share of deals last year, including Newcrest Mining’s (TSX: NCM; ASX: NCM) acquisition of Pretium Resources (TSX: PVG) for C$3.5 billion; Newmont Mining’s (TSX: NGT; NYSE: NEM) C$456 million acquisition of GT Gold (TSXV: GTT); Yamana Gold’s (TSX: YRI, NYSE: AUY; LSE: AUY) move to take a 6.4% in Ascot Resources (TSX: AOT); Hochschild Mining’s (LSE: HOC) C$115 million investment to earn a 60% stake in Skeena Resources’ (TSX: SKE) Snip project; and Franco-Nevada’s (TSX: FN) strategic investment in mid-December for a 2.25% stake in Skeena.
“I think there’s more excitement to come,” Johnston says. “Those larger companies are watching and are looking for opportunities and I think we’ll also see some smaller M&A activity as well.”
Moreover, “many deals have been either sparked at Roundup or signed off at Roundup,” Johnston says, including Newmont’s investment in GT Gold, which germinated at AME Roundup in 2020. “Sometimes it’s a geologist from a major looking at a project generator and seeing the rocks for the first time, and that starts a conversation, and other times it’s meeting up to sign off on the deal.”
“There are many examples of small projects and deals that have been done as a result of the Project Generators Hub and the Prospector’s Tent at AME Roundup,” she says. “In past years, some of these companies who have vended properties include Kenorland Minerals, Riverside Resources, and Evrim Resources, among others.”
“Often it is the core in the Core Shack, the maps in the Project Generator’s Hub or hand samples in the Prospectors Tent that spark interest in a project,” Johnston continues. “Those looking for projects may watch and follow that project for years before doing a deal, but the fact remains that the initial spark comes from a conversation at Roundup.”
In addition, not only is B.C. known for its rich endowments of gold and copper, but it also contains critical minerals required for the transition to a greener economy, including nickel, cobalt, lithium, and molybdenum.
She also points to the hard work the province has put in to burnish B.C.’s reputation as a competitive mining jurisdiction, whether it’s the top-up of flow-through financing, speedier permitting times, or the provincial government’s investment in hiring more staff to oversee its regional offices. “Everything is aligned to come to B.C. and work here right now and advance a project and we’re seeing that now with some of the recent Environmental Assessments that have been passed.”
The province has also seen a lot of companies really make use of the flow-through credits,” she adds, “and they are a significant driver of investment for junior explorers.”
“We all know the impact of flow-through, which not only helps Canadian companies working anywhere across the country, but the top-up in B.C. for flow-through shares is also a significant bump to B.C. explorers.”
Johnston also pointed to the fact that the federal government is looking at increasing flow-through for companies exploring for critical minerals. “We’re really looking forward to seeing progress on that file because that’s really going to encourage people to look at some of these copper projects. Demand for critical minerals continues to grow and finding more starts with us, responsible explorers.”
After an all-virtual Roundup in 2021 due to the pandemic, Johnston says this year’s conference at Vancouver’s Convention Centre West will be both in-person and live-streamed online to accommodate people from around the world who can’t travel but want to participate.
“AME Roundup is the place where deals are made, trends are set and talent is discovered,” she says. “It’s going to be a really interesting conference and we’re super excited to offer it both in-person and online.”
(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)