What are the biggest challenges facing the exploration industry?
Since most of these exploration projects are probably going to happen in remote areas I think the lack of infrastructure (roads, access wifi, all the permits needed etc) is going to be a big barrier here in Canada.
I think another challenge is making sure that we are mitigating all potential environmental impacts. Can we justify doing more exploration when we haven't cleaned up old mine sites yet? Exploration companies need to make sure everything is up to standards (impact assessments etc) and have the communities on board with their plans before anything goes forward.
There is not enough being doing to promote the employment needs of the sector. There is a lack of skilled workers available in Canada and the future of mining will be more automated with many of the current employees will be retiring in the next decade or so. Without awareness of this problem and recruitment actions, there won't be enough people to fill the gaps needed in the industry in the coming years. We need to start investing in students now so that they can be trained for the mining jobs of the future and we can continue to be competitive in the global market.
For every one thousand or so deposits found maybe one becomes a mine. Deposits are getting smaller and smaller as the easily accessible ones have been mined. Canada needs to innovate and think of ways smaller deposits can become more economically feasible. One way is to make getting materials to market cheaper by furthering infrastructure needs. If smaller scale mines can be our future, the mineral exploration sector will boom.
All of us (industry, government, stakeholders) seem to be hypnotised by market forces. When metal prices are trending upward, everything is fine - there is ample financing - and we tend to forget that there are underlying factors that put the resilience of the industry at risk. When prices collapse, however, these issues tend to amplify the negative impacts of weak prices on our exploration projects and junior mining sector. We can reduce the amplitude of these fluctuations and benefit even more when prices are strong by paying attention to various elements of our mineral investment climate, including: access to land, social acceptability of projects, Indigenous participation, access to financing, infrastructure gaps, regulatory predictability and fluidity (while ensuring that all environmental and social requirements are met), and geoscience and innovation to encourage the discovery, development, mining and processing of mineral resources and more value-added activities.
School curriculum's in Nova Scotia provide little opportunity for children to be exposed to discussions on geology or mineral resource development. There is a small module in grade 4, another in grade 7, and some high schools offer geology as an elective if there happens to be a geologist turned teacher in the school. What is the impact of this? Most adults in Nova Scotia graduate high school knowing very little about how the earth works, geological processes, hydrogeology, where minerals are found and used, mineral exploration, mining and its benefits or environmental risks. A lot of mineral exploration has traditionally occurred in remote areas where it was very much out of sight and mind. However, with the development of the internet and social media it is no longer possible to work quietly in remote areas. Someone is bound to see the activity and 5 minutes later the whole world knows you are there. When people know little about mineral exploration and mining until they find out someone is exploring in their community through social media or someone knocking on their door asking permission to explore on their property, they often become frightened. It is a common social reaction for most of us exposed to the unknown. Social action groups opposed to mining exploit that fear by posting worst case environmental scenarios on social media. These factors all combine to turn quite placid communities into emotionally charged ones. Once the community reaches that point the opportunity to provide solid science based education of the geological and mineral development subjects is greatly diminished and the opportunity to obtain a social license for mining can be lost. This significant educational deficiency needs to be addressed.