Mineral Exploration Facts

courtesy of The Association for Mineral Exploration (AME)


Exploration for, and the development of new mineral and coal deposits is the lifeblood of BC’s multi-million dollar mining industry. 

Companies in BC explore for many of the commodities used by people every day. These include copper, gold, silver, lead, molybdenum, zinc, platinum, iron, steel-making coal, nickel, tungsten, niobium, rhenium and tantalum.

Mineral and coal exploration and development also generate significant economic activity throughout BC.  From 2010-2016, over $2.7 billion was spent to explore, discover and develop more mineral and coal resources in the province.

Most of BC’s 800 mining and exploration companies are based in urban areas where most of the money for exploration is raised. But the vast majority of the money is spent, and local employment opportunities are created, in more rural areas and communities.

Of the $205 million spent on mineral and coal exploration in 2016, the following shows investment by regions in BC:

Northwest:$84 million
Northeast:$9 million
North Central:$29 million
Southwest:$2 million
South Central:$44 million
Southeast:$37 million

In addition, Vancouver is renowned as a global centre for mineral exploration and development; the companies headquartered here explore throughout BC and around the world. These companies depend on the extensive network of service firms – from legal and audit to engineering and environmental – and suppliers located throughout the province. 

Projects & Environment

Over 250 exploration projects are located in all regions of the province, and commonly in remote and rural regions. Some of the work conducted includes prospecting, geological mapping, geophysical and geochemical surveys, drilling, and environmental and feasibility studies.

Minerals and coal resources are a hidden below the ground, so exploration needs to occur over as much of the land base as possible to find them. Yet active exploration and mining disturbs much less than 1 per cent of BC’s land base.

Most impacts from permitted projects are low or short-lived and are monitored and mitigated through permits overseen by government agencies. All mineral exploration projects in BC are referred to First Nations for review.

Employment & Engagement

The BC HR Task Force (2012) projected that 4,000 workers will be needed for mineral exploration in the following decade.

The minerals industry is the largest private sector employer of First Nations in Canada, and companies actively engage First Nations on whose traditional territories they are exploring.

A 2016 survey of the industry indicates that 25% of employees on BC exploration projects are First Nations. In comparison, Aboriginal people make up approximately 5% of the overall BC labour force.

Education & Training

Education and skills training in mineral exploration, earth sciences and related fields takes place at universities and colleges throughout the province.  BC has eight regional exploration and mining industry groups who have partnered with the Province, colleges, First Nations and others to train future explorers and prospectors.

Source: Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.  For more information visit www.amebc.ca