Plan for developing Bonanza Ledge mine near Barkerville uses spiral tunnel to reach gold below existing pit.

Signs of spring for B.C. mining industry

Gold projects at Barkerville and in the northwest moving ahead, as metal prices and steelmaking demand revive in Asia

The pending return of mining to Barkerville and an uptick of demand for iron ore in Asia are signs that the worldwide commodity slump may be coming to an end, says B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett.

In an interview after last week’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto, Bennett said construction and steelmaking in China are key indicators of demand for metallurgical coal from Kootenay and South Peace mines, which have cut production due to poor international demand and low prices.

“I went there expecting the same as last year, with everyone being pessimistic, and instead I actually thought there was a fair bit of optimism, particularly for B.C.,” he said.

Bennett met with representatives of Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd., which plans to build an underground mine the historic region of the Cariboo gold rush of the 1860s. The company has reorganized, paid its debt and raised enough money to get the project into production this year, he said.

Barkerville Gold has been accumulating properties in the Cariboo since 1994. Its plan is to develop three sites, starting with the Bonanza Ledge mine at Barkerville Mountain, two kilometres northwest of the historic townsite from the placer mining boom.

Brucejack, an underground gold mine north-west of Smithers that was permitted last year, is also moving ahead.

“He’s got about 400 people working there now and he’s going to have 500 as the snow goes down,” Bennett said. “That’s as many people as are working at Site C. It’s happening out of sight, out of mind so nobody knows about it.”