The association's president and CEO Kendra Johnston told Mining Journal data pointed to a strong rebound in exploration finance in the past 12 months, with about C$350 million raised among British Columbia explorers alone, the highest total since 2012.
"We know exploration is an incredible driver of the local economy," she said.
"Our data show the average mineral exploration project has an annual exploration budget of about $1.2 million, of which 97% of those dollars stay in the province, and about 38-40% of those dollars stay within the local regions being spent at local grocery stores and local hotels to accommodate geologists and drilling operators, etcetera."
The AME has put together a programme around ‘Leading Through Change', the theme underscoring the virtual move and BC's aspirations as a mining innovation hub.
"This is my 18th and the AME's 38th Roundup. Despite it being virtual for the first time, attendees and participants will be able to access live and on-demand programming from anywhere in the world, and the conference will once again offer participants the ability to connect, network and exchange ideas," said Johnston.
The conference has a line-up of keynote speakers led by Robert Friedland of Ivanhoe Mines. He is expected to discuss the international copper market and go over recent highlights from Ivanhoe's development projects in Africa.
David Elliott of Haywood Securities will focus on financing trends and deal structures for junior companies in another keynote.
Johnston said the province, First Nation governments and industry had made significant progress in 2020 with the implementation of the Declaration for Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, referred to as DRIPA, and corresponding conversations about diversity and inclusion. "Mineral exploration and mining companies generally are leaders in advancing conversations and partnership agreements with our First Nations partners, but we can always go a step further to understand more and strive to improve upon our practices with mutual respect," she said.
Focus on conversations
As part of a first-time focus on inclusion and diversity, the programme features speakers such as Shastri Ramnath, CEO of Exiro Minerals; SDGS Hive principal geoscientist and CEO, Andy Randell; Linda Murphy, Yamana Gold's senior manager of community relations; and president and director of Elim Mining, John Antwi.
"With all the conversations happening last year about societal things such as Black Lives Matter, it's imperative to have a conversation about diversity, inclusion and specifically anti-racism, looking at where our industry is, how we measure up and uncover areas many of us were not even aware of," Johnston said.
Dovetailing into this is a continuing focus on environmental, social and governance investment matters. Roundup will for the first time feature a full mainstage segment on ESG, including Wheaton Precious Metals boss Randy Smallwood.
"The ESG conversation has blossomed over the past year. The industry has come to understand what ESG is all about, and it has encouraged the industry from the bottom up to become more holistically aware of its impacts on stakeholders and the environment," Johnston said.
The ESG session will also feature Ross Beaty of Equinox Gold, who will talk about mining, communities, biodiversity and land protection for parks.
Despite many hardships created by the pandemic, Johnston suggested some good had come from it.
"The exploration industry was agile in adapting to the new reality of working under increased health and safety protocols. The industry generally did a great job in communicating the new protocols to employees and community stakeholders. Those companies made huge progress in their relationships with local nations and communities across the province," she said.
Johnston said "an incredible amount" of effort had gone into reducing government red tape to reduce permitting timelines, and increasing access to land for mineral exploration, one of BC's perennial issues.
Johnston also said the AME was pushing to create a mineral exploration investment fund, a standalone entity that would evaluate and invest in grassroots BC-based companies that demonstrated high ESG standards. "Part of the idea of the fund would be that it is supportive of local communities, so some of the profit could be directed towards building capacity in local communities and cleaning up legacy sites," she said.
After volunteering for the AME for many years, Johnston took the helm in June 2019. She is a professional geologist and mining executive with more than 15 years of experience in various facets of mineral exploration and mining in BC and the Yukon.
Register to attend the virtual event from January 18-22 at www.roundup.amebc.ca.