As mining activity proliferates, district preps for Minerals North 2014

Preliminary planning is underway for the 2014 Minerals North conference in Vanderhoof.

Employees at the Blackwater Project site analyze mineral samples collected from exploration drilling.

Employees at the Blackwater Project site analyze mineral samples collected from exploration drilling.

Preliminary planning has begun for the 2014 Minerals North conference in Vanderhoof.

The committee responsible for managing the event met for a third time on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

At the meeting, committee members shared ideas, discussed promotional strategies and assigned a delegation team to the 2013 conference in Terrace to develop contacts and learn more about organizing the annual trade show.

Before adjourning, the committee underscored the importance of maximizing community involvement in the 2014 conference here.

“It’s for the public to be aware of what’s happening in the mining industry,” said Erin Siemens, economic development officer for the District of Vanderhoof.

“We really want the community engagement.”

With an overall objective of bringing communities and mining companies together, Minerals North has been nurturing relationships, creating economic opportunities and showcasing businesses in northern B.C. for 25 years.

“This is really the only conference I’ve been to where you’re mixing people from communities directly with mining people,” said Hans Smit, president of the Minerals North Association.

“The idea is to really learn from each other.”

The conference is also known to generate an economic boost for the host community, attracting hundreds of business owners and industry representatives, and stimulating spending on goods and services.

In Terrace, more than 800 people are expected to register for the conference from April 24 to April 26.

Hotels are booked solid, both in Terrace and surrounding communities, and approximately $150,000 in sponsorships – for things like meals and refreshments – have already been sold.

“It’s truly incredible,” said Evan van Dyk, economic development officer for the City of Terrace.

“It’s a conference that people want to be a part and companies find extremely valuable.”

The conference has grown enormously since its inception in the late 1980s.

“We used to have to try and get communities together for hosting it. Now, communities bid and vie for it,” he said.

Last year, Minerals North announced that the 2014 conference would be held in Vanderhoof.

“It was chosen because of its excellent proposal,” said Smit.

“It’s a neat time to have it in Vanderhoof because of the amount of work going on around there.”

Vanderhoof has submitted three bids to host the conference in the past. With each attempt, the proposals improved, but the level of mining activity in the region was more influential, said Kathie LaForge, the district’s former economic development officer, who developed and submitted the proposals.

“I think that, more than anything, the advent of more mineral exploration within the geographic area surrounding Vanderhoof certainly helped our proposal,” said LaForge, now community manager for New Gold, owner of the Blackwater Project.

Mining in northwestern B.C. is a major contributor to the province’s economy, in terms of creating jobs and revenue, but mineral exploration remains a risky investment that’s tough to finance, said Smit, a geologist in the junior mining market.

There’s about a one-in-a-thousand chance that an exploration project will find enough mineral deposits to validate building a mine, said Smit.

“Most exploration projects don’t find a mine,” he said.

“The flip side, and why people keep investing, is the rewards can be extremely high. If you actually find a good mine, you get many times back from your investment.