Despite last year’s colossal drop in base metal prices, Asian mining investors remain upbeat, said Economic Development Minister Jim Kenyon.
Kenyon was in Toronto this week for the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s investment and trade show. The 18,000-person event took place on five floors of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“You could fit the entire population of the Yukon in here,” said Kenyon.
Plummeting demand for consumer goods has clobbered Asian manufacturers making everything from cars to electronics.
But Korean and Chinese investors are still hunting for mines at bargain prices, said Kenyon.
“When you’re talking about a mining investment, you’re not talking about going and buying something today, you’re talking about buying something in two to three years,” he said.
“Everyone here knows that these are cycles.
“The juniors that are strictly exploration are scrambling a little bit. We’re not going to be totally exempt from that. But the ones who are closer to development are having a ball here.”
Kenyon has presented the Yukon’s regulatory regime to several Chinese investment groups, including both private- and public-sector companies. He’s also spoken to more than 400 individual Chinese investors, he said.
He is pitching the Yukon’s lead-zinc and gold deposits at the conference.
Zinc is important to car production because it’s difficult to recycle, said Kenyon.
“The ones doing the best in the auto industry right now are the Koreans, like Hyundai and Kia,” he said.
Electronics companies need gold to plate their products. Those industries might be depressed today, but investors are looking to the future.
“(The investors) are buying for what they’ll need in four or five years out,” said Kenyon. “You’re also looking at a lot of companies that are well capitalized.”
The Yukon distributed maps and information from a booth. It even offered a book on the Yukon’s zinc deposits written in both English and Mandarin.
“We have a proven track record of getting ore concentrate out of Skagway and into Asia,” said Kenyon. “We’re are as much as five sailing days closer than the US, and three and a half days closer than Vancouver.”
Wolverine Lake, a Chinese-owned property, will eventually employ 160 people, he said, noting 200 people work there today in the development phase.
The Wolverine project is rumoured to have high levels of selenium, a metal that hardly receives mention, said Kenyon.
“(Selenium) used to be considered a contaminant,” said Kenyon. “I asked the owner of the (Wolverine) mine if having more selenium made it more attractive, and he just smiled, nodded and walked away.”
“He didn’t want to talk about it a lot.”
Selenium is used as a health supplement to treat muscle-wasting disease, but it is also used to bolster solar protection in windows.
“Think of all the highrises going up around the world with green-tinted windows to protect from the sun – all selenium,” said Kenyon.
There’s a shortage of the glass additive right now, he said.
Despite the heralded doom and gloom, many Asian markets don’t see a long-term supression in demand for metals.
“We have a number of other Chinese investments in the Yukon,” said Kenyon. “And I think you’ll be hearing about a couple more in the next few weeks.”
Contact James Munson at