High prices drive up profits for B.C. metals exports

Riding high on metals prices, a BC Stats report says the provincial mining industry can expect to close 2011 as "another banner year."

Riding high on metals prices, a BC Stats report says the provincial mining industry can expect to close 2011 as “another banner year.”

Silver prices have near doubled in the last year, the report said, and gold prices are up by almost half. Copper, the leader among B.C.’s metallic minerals exports, was up by 20 per cent.

Those price hikes have meant higher profits, even though B.C.’s metals production has actually fallen slightly from last year. Several B.C. mines have closed in recent years, including the Kemess copper and gold mine earlier in 2011.

In fact, over the last ten years, the report found that virtually all the growth in B.C.’s mineral exports has come from higher prices—the amount of metallic minerals shipped out of B.C. has stayed relatively flat.

And the vast majority of B.C.’s metals exports goes to just four countries—Japan, the United States, China and South Korea.

The spike in metals prices shows up most clearly in the Chinese case. Between 2005 and 2010, those exports almost doubled their value in mainland China.

Those higher prices are a key reason why Red Chris, Galore Creek and other proposed mines in the northwest have become economical.

Still, despite recent gains, the report said the value of B.C.’s metallic minerals exports has some ways to go it returns to the high levels exporters enjoyed before the global economic downturn hit in 2009.