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B.C. resource industries ‘modernizing,’ ‘changing,’ says industry leader

Premier David Eby to speak at BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George
B.C. Premier David Eby, here seen in April, will speak at the BC Natural Resources Forum Tuesday in Prince George. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

As Premier David Eby prepares to speak at an annual gathering of leaders representing B.C.’s natural resource sector, his government is receiving credit for listening to rural British Columbia.

“This government has the challenge of not having a lot of rural seats, but we are seeing some real tangible actions under this premier’s leadership and the previous (one),” Sarah Weber, president and chief executive officer, C3 Alliance and Forum Advisory Committee Chair of the BC Natural Resources Forum. “There are some ministries, who are trying to work very collaboratively together.”

Weber made these comments as the BC Natural Resources Forum prepares to host a three-day conference in Prince George, Jan. 16 to Jan. 18. Eby, who will be visiting the forum for the second time as premier, will speak Tuesday evening. BC United Leader Kevin Falcon, meanwhile, is also scheduled to speak on Jan. 17.

BC Natural Resources Forum advertises itself as the largest natural resource conference in Western Canada and brings together government officials from different spheres, First Nations and industry.

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By virtue of timing, Eby’s appearance at last year’s conference was his first high-profile appearance before a large audience. He used the occasion to announce several important agreements with First Nations among others while in Prince George, while also announcing support for forestry workers. Readily acknowledging his suburban roots, Eby has also made it a point to visit rural areas in B.C., having toured the South Okanagan, Similkameen and Boundary regions during the fall of 2023 following the release of his party’s rural strategy. He is also a big promoter of a proposed green hydrogen project in Prince George.

Speaking to Black Press Media last week, Weber said she expects government to use the occasion of the conference to make several announcements. “I don’t know what per se they will be, but I would say, definitely keep an eye on Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning.”

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Eby’s visit in Prince George comes as different parts of B.C.’s natural resource industry find themselves in different phases. While mining appears poised for a renaissance, the forestry sector still appears to be struggling with access to timber and trade issues. The energy sector, meanwhile, is pursuing projects in both renewable and non-renewable energy forms.

Weber offered this assessment.

“I think we are at a really important point in time,” she said. “There are lots of projects, (which) are ready to go, but you need that final investment decision. I’m really optimistic about the state of natural resources right now.” Reasons for this optimism include federal and provincial interest in critical minerals as well innovative mining partnerships with First Nations and new technologies, she said.

On the forestry side, BC Council of Forest Industries has also taken to steps to produce more value-added goods, she added. “Certainly, energy is such an exciting conversation,” she said, pointing to Shell’s recent agreement to purchase liquid natural gas from a Nisga’a-led energy partnership. “But it is still going to take a lot of hard work to get some of these projects across the line,” she said.

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Weber broadly echoed calls from Michael Goehring of the Mining Association of BC for regulatory improvements.

“Making sure that there is clarity in regulation, that there is timeliness in statutory decision-making, those are all very key parts (of the broader economic environment), because it is about attracting foreign investment,” she said. “It’s a very competitive world,” she said.

One topic of special discussion at the conference will be the cost of energy.

“We are going to hear a lot of subject matter experts discussing that exact topic,” Weber said. “What are the climate goals? How are we going to meet CleanBC?” she said. Another question concerns BC Hydro’s recent call for power, she added.

“There are a lot of smart people trying to solve this equation and I hear the Premier himself talk about hydrogen as well,” she said. “How will fit that fit in the overall infrastructure of the province? But it’s exciting.”

Overall, Weber said she expects the resource sector to remain a key component of B.C.’s economy.

“While there are a lot of great other industries that are up and growing, none of these (resource) industries are sun-set industries. They are modernizing and changing.”


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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