Mining gets a double dose of government patronage

The Yukon government is making a two-pronged effort to boost mining exploration during an election year.

The Yukon government is making a two-pronged effort to boost mining exploration during an election year.

First, Economic Development minister Jim Kenyon travelled to China, Korea and Japan in February with industry players to meet with investors and government bureaucrats.

“We formed a working partnership with industry and government and met with some key officials in all of the countries we visited,” Kenyon said Monday in a release.

“We were also able to meet with the ambassadors of all three countries as well as trade commissioners and key government officials.

“The world is experiencing a shift toward the expanding economies of China and other Asian countries and it’s important for Yukon to ensure we are spreading the message that Yukon has world-class mineral deposits, oil and gas resources and skilled and knowledgeable people.”

Kenyon returned from China last week.

Then Energy, Mines and Resources minister Archie Lang travelled to Toronto this week to attend the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference — arguably the world’s biggest annual meeting of the mining sector.

“Toronto is the major centre of mining in Canada, so it’s a natural place for mining companies to raise funds for their exploration, development or production plans,” Lang said in a teleconference Tuesday.

“We’ve had many discussions with the major (players) and investors in the Yukon, and prospective investors in the Yukon.”

It was the first time a Yukon minister has attended the three-day conference in Toronto, according to one Resources official.

Lang travelled with 10 delegates representing the Resources and Economic Development departments and the Yukon Geological Survey.

The cost of Lang’s tour won’t be available until next week.

The price tag for Kenyon’s 10-day Asian tour wasn’t available either.

But one of his two previous tours in China cost “around $45,000,” Kenyon said in a previous interview with The News.

Officials with the prospectors and developers association estimated that 14,000 people are attending the Toronto convention. That’s up 15 per cent from last year, said Lang.

The Yukon Chamber of Mines has a booth at the conference.

So does the Yukon government.

And so does the Chinese government, which brought an 80-person delegation, according to conference officials.

China Mining, an investment group that creates a liaison between China and other jurisdictions, is a major sponsor of the conference, as is the Chinese ministry of lands and resources, said conference spokeswoman Saley Lawton.

All the major mining industry players with a stake in the Yukon are at the conference, said Lang.

“I’m not sure they’re here to raise money as much as profile their product,” he said.

That’s true for Stephen Quin, the president and CEO of Sherwood Copper Corp. that owns the Minto property north of Whitehorse.

“We’re essentially seeking exposure for the project, so people understand what the project is about,” Quin said in telephone interview from the conference on Thursday.

Sherwood is planning to strip the overburden from its copper deposit to create an open-pit mine this summer.

But the company isn’t looking for financing at the conference, said Quin.

“This is a mix of a technical conference and an investors’ conference, so you’ve got two objectives,” he said.

“One is to tell people technically about the project, which is why you have core samples and geologists talking to geologists.”

The second is to expose investors, fund managers and analysts to a project, he added.

Vancouver-based Pacifica Resources Ltd. is also represented at the conference, said Lang.

President and CEO Harlan Meade accompanied Kenyon on his Asian tour to make “key contacts in Asia”.

Pacifica, which holds exploration rights for a large lead-zinc deposit in the Howard’s Pass, has made a $10 million drilling commitment to the Yukon this year, said Lang.

Up to $80 million will be spent on exploration in the territory in 2006, he predicted.

“We’ve had the largest increase in exploration dollars over five years in Canada. We’ve had a more than 600 per cent improvement in our exploration expenditures.

“We are the leaders on that level.”

The Yukon government is also showcasing its cutting-edge legislation called the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Act.

“It’s both environmental and socioeconomic,” said Klondike placer miner Tara Christie, who sits on the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board and also attended the Toronto conference.

“Because ours is a single assessment process for all lands in the Yukon, it makes it unique,” Christie said Monday.

“It will provide certainty and timelines for the industry.”

Under the new act, the arms-length board will conduct assessments and make recommendations to government decision-bodies and regulators.

Once a few “success stories” make it through the process, the act will give industry the certainty it needs, said Lang.

“YESAA is a Yukon solution to a Yukon problem,” he said.

“It’s going to be fine, as industry walks through it with us and with the YESAA board.”

Industry does not yet have familiarity with the new system, which came into full effect in November 2005.

“There’s no history to say whether it’s working or not,” said Quin, who sits on the Yukon Chamber of Mines board of directors.

“The process can work; I think we just have to make sure it works smoothly and timely.

“That’s always a concern to mining companies.”

The legislation fits the tone of the conference, said Christie.

Governments, industry groups and non-governmental organizations from around the world are in Toronto to talk about sustainable mining development, community engagement and resource revenue sharing, she said.

“This is the premier conference for financing and raising capital for the mining industry.

“There’s a lot of discussion about social responsibility and some of the changes that have been made.”

It’s a much different meeting than the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference held in Vancouver in January, added Christie.

“There’s more of an international focus here, whereas the Cordilleran is more about specific projects and specific deposit types. It’s more technical.

“There are certainly lots of people asking about the Yukon.

“Almost of all the projects that are in the later exploration stages in the Yukon, I’ve seen them here.

“Lots of people that live in the Yukon and work in the Yukon are here, and some prospectors as well.

“They’re probably looking for some major companies to support some of their projects or look at some of their projects.”