Back; Bill Hickman and Victor Maskulak, front, Debbie Oviatt, Minerals North president Andrew Webber and Ron Burnett. (Photo Gerry Leibel)

Kitimat to host Minerals North conference in 2021

Expect between 200 and 300 delegates

It’s official – next year Kitimat will host one of the largest northern mining conferences in Western Canada.

From May 19 to 21, 2021, Kitimat will be bustling with mining industry stakeholders, government officials and representatives from companies that supply the mining industry in B.C. when the 33rd Minerals North conference comes to town.

Minerals North Conference Association president Andrew Webber said while Kitimat doesn’t have an active mining sector, the region does have a history of mining and still supplies some of the sector with construction, manufacturing and export services.

“While many communities don’t see themselves as mining communities, many of them have been involved in the mining at one time or another,” said Webber.

Currently, Webber added, Kitimat boasts one of the largest mining operations in the province – the sandhill operated by Arthon Industries. In fact most mineral extraction in the province takes place in the northwest, added Webber.

As of 2019, there were three operating mines and five proposed projects, significant considering the northwest constitutes 25 per cent of the provincial landmass.

These include Pretivm Resources’s Brucejack Gold Mine, which went into production in mid-2017, followed by another gold and silver project, Red Mountain, owned by IDM Resources and located near Stewart.

With an estimated capital cost of $135 million and an 18-month construction period, Red Mountain is expected to have a six-year operating life and provide approximately 200 jobs through a planned production rate of 1,000 tonnes a day.

Another large mining operation is the Red Chris copper and gold mine, located south of Dease Lake, which is operated by a subsidiary of Imperial Metals Corporation.

“The conference will give Kitimat a chance to showcase itself,” said Webber, adding he was glad to see the conference move back west in northern B.C.

The conference venue changes every year, moving across the north hosted by different communities. The 2020 conference will be hosted in Quesnel.

Kitimat fits the association’s goal of locating the conference in different parts of the north each year, ensuring that not just the larger communities benefit.

Webber said the event provides an opportunity for local communities to showcase their capacity to service the mineral industry, for community leaders to learn about economic and policy issues that affect the minerals sector and for the industry to be informed of local issues and community goals.

“There’s also an intimacy of having Minerals North in a smaller community. People are drawn together in the community simply because it’s smaller. In a larger city, people spread out,” said Webber.

The first gathering of the mining industry took place in Terrace in 1989 although the annual convention did not take on its official name of Minerals North until the third conference was held in Stewart in 1991.

Webber said little has changed since the first gathering as the intent of drawing together not only the mineral industry but other groups and people with an interest in land use has thrived over the years.

“Minerals North gives communities an understanding of how mining companies operate and for the mineral sector, an opportunity to understand communities,” said Webber.

While the Minerals North Conference Association is the overall governing body and evaluates bids from communities wishing to host the event, Webber said organizing details rest with the local community committees and it is their hard work each year which makes the annual event a success.

The 2021 conference, which is being co-sponsored by the District of Kitimat and the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, has a $200,000 organizing budget, plus in-kind contributions for the hosts.

Webber said he expects between 200 and 300 delegates to attend the conference, which will also feature a “good-sized tradeshow,” tours and workshops run over a day and a half.

The trade show provides an opportunity for mining companies, suppliers, local and provincial government representatives, First Nations leadership to engage.

The conference itself will be held at Riverlodge, events taking place inside and outside the venue,

The decision to host the conference in Kitimat follows an application by the Kitimat Economic Development Association (KEDA), who along with the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, will be responsible for organizing the conference.

KEDA director Ron Burnett said the organization for the conference has already begun, with negotiations with local hotels and accommodation provider Horizon North now complete, ensuring there will be sufficient accommodation for the conference.

District of Kitimat Economic Development director Mike Dewar said playing host to the Minerals North would allow Kitimat to be showcased to sector leaders who may not otherwise get the chance to see the community’s inherent natural opportunities.

“The District is committed to assisting the facilitation of a successful event. We are working with KEDA and the Chamber of Commerce to better understand the requirements of the event, as well as means by which we can support the conference,” said Dewar.

He said that beyond the direct financial spinoffs, playing host to Minerals North 2021 would deliver occasion for exposure and connections to the community.

“This event will be a wonderful chance to showcase the natural opportunities our community and area have to offer and will create potential for connections amongst the local business community with the mining sector.

“I think this event will provide a win-win result for both Kitimat and the mining sector.” – with files from Rod Link

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