Opportunities abound in North Thompson valley

The Harper Creek project is in the pre-application phase of the required Environmental Assessment process

VANCOUVER – When Ron Handford, Yellowhead Mining Inc.’s executive vice-president of corporate development, was on the Premier’s jobs and trade mission to Asia last fall, he spoke with executives connected with smelters, mining and trading companies in Japan, China and South Korea.

“They all think B.C. is a great destination for their investment and for partnerships,” he said recently. “We think we’ll see more investment coming from Asia and to this province.”

Yellowhead Mining has a 100 per cent interest in the Harper Creek mining project – a large copper-gold-silver deposit located near Vavenby in the North Thompson area of south-central British Columbia. The company’s planned production rate would make the Harper Creek project Canada’s second-largest open pit copper mine.

The project is in the pre-application phase of the required Environmental Assessment process. But it’s the project’s potential to contribute in a big way to the economic prosperity of the people living in the North Thompson valley that’s got people talking.

The Harper Creek project is just one of several development projects in south-central B.C. that government, business, investors and industry are looking at.

As Handford said, “It’s hard on family life if you live in Clearwater or Vavenby, but have to travel to the Alberta oil sands for work. However, once the Harper Creek project gets underway, the company will be hiring to fill 350 full-time jobs for the mining operation and up to 500 jobs during the construction phase.”

Yellowhead’s annual operating expenses will reach $200 million.

“A large part of that money will get spent in the North Thompson valley,” Handford said.

The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation has a number of economic investment pilot projects on the go at the moment. The idea is to have community leaders, industry, business and residents help identify barriers, advantages and opportunities in targeted regions with high potential for economic investment and development.

One of these economic investment pilots takes in the corridor that runs through the North Thompson and Robson valleys, between Barriere and McBride.

A forum was held Jan. 16 in Valemount, attended by more than 100 invited participants. Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake says three major needs emerged: more secure access to power for big projects, access to fiber for bioenergy development and the opportunity to develop a year-round ski resort.

The corridor includes the traditional territory of the Simpcw First Nation, which has several ongoing business relationships with companies in forestry, mining and hydropower production.

Clearwater Mayor John Harwood agrees. “We have the ability to work and live and being able to raise a family in these areas is really great. It’s not compressed, like the city. It gives you a chance to spend a lot of family time, so I think that, just from the family point of view, these places are very attractive to investors, future employers and employees.”

Chief Nathan Matthew of the Simpcw First Nation is optimistic. “We are very blessed in this part of the world to have timber, to have minerals, to have water and to have a place that is accessible. I think that by combining the efforts of people that are willing to work together, it makes it an especially good place to work on pilot projects.”

Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman said, “Mining projects like these offer huge potential economic benefits both locally and provincially. The stability, job security and high wages of mining jobs make rural areas more economically viable, and improve the quality of life for British Columbians.”

– Ministry of Energy and Mines