THE CON­VER­SA­TION

The new boss of the Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of BC makes his pitch for min­ing's role in a low-car­bon econ­omy

BC Business Magazine - - Contents - By Nick Rockel

For Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of BC head Bryan Cox, the in­dus­try’s fu­ture is green

You might think the min­ing sec­tor and the beer busi­ness have lit­tle in com­mon. Bryan Cox knows dif­fer­ent: both are tech­ni­cal, highly reg­u­lated and peo­pledriven in­dus­tries, says the pres­i­dent and CEO of the Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of BC ( MABC), who led pub­lic af­fairs for Western Canada at Mol­son Coors Canada be­fore join­ing the pro­vin­cial ad­vo­cacy group in 2014.

Al­berta na­tive Cox, who holds a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of Calgary, is no stranger to bu­reau­cracy or the re­source sec­tor. His fa­ther ran a food ser­vices busi­ness that catered to oil and gas com­pa­nies, and from 2002 to 2006 he worked for the B.C. gov­ern­ment as a pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer and min­is­te­rial as­sis­tant. He then re­turned to his home prov­ince for a stint as gov­ern­ment re­la­tions man­ager with Ed­mon­ton-based Ep­cor Util­i­ties Inc. Pro­moted from VP of cor­po­rate af­fairs at the 116-year-old MABC this past May, Cox aims to boost the B.C. min­ing in­dus­try’s pro­file and abil­ity to com­pete.

What's your vi­sion for the MABC?

There are two things I want to fo­cus on. One is com­pet­i­tive­ness, and two is min­ing aware­ness. Com­pet­i­tive­ness is very im­por­tant be­cause for all our bless­ings, we’re a small, trad­ede­pen­dent ju­ris­dic­tion of four mil­lion peo­ple that com­petes in a global world. My fo­cus in that re­gard is to get to the most com­pet­i­tive busi­ness strate­gies and tax­a­tion mod­els to en­sure that in­vest­ment can come to B.C. We need those fun­da­men­tals to help us com­pete against Chile for cop­per and Aus­tralia for steel­mak­ing coal, which are our two pre­dom­i­nant com­modi­ties.

You also have your grass­roots com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ships. When you look at our op­er­a­tions in Bri­tish Columbia and what they do in the com­mu­ni­ties where they op­er­ate, it’s quite amaz­ing to see how in­ter­con­nected, in­grained and in­ter­twined the com­pa­nies are in those ar­eas.

How im­por­tant is min­ing to the B.C. econ­omy?

It’s es­sen­tial be­cause we’re mov­ing to a lower-car­bon econ­omy. It takes four times more cop­per to build an elec­tric mo­tor than it does a con­ven­tional com­bus­tion mo­tor. It takes 100 tonnes of steel­mak­ing coal to make one wind tur­bine. As we tran­si­tion to a lower-car­bon econ­omy, it’s go­ing to be even more es­sen­tial that we have the prod­ucts, es­pe­cially that we pro­duce here in B.C. We’re go­ing to need to grow. We need to en­sure that we do it in the most re­spon­si­ble way, with the very ro­bust reg­u­la­tory sys­tem we al­ready have.

How is B.C. do­ing when it comes to at­tract­ing and de­vel­op­ing the right tal­ent?

We have a group called the BC Cen­tre of Train­ing Ex­cel­lence in Min­ing where we’re try­ing to pull mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers around the table, in­clud­ing post­sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions, First Na­tions and in­dus­try, and talk about what the needs of the in­dus­try are and work with the in­sti­tu­tions to get train­ing pro­grams in place be­fore we need them. Also, we want to make sure we have this amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity for First Na­tions in the prov­ince, es­pe­cially where most of our op­er­a­tions are lo­cated, to be a re­ally im­por­tant work­force for our in­dus­try.

What do you think the new pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has in store for the in­dus­try?

We en­gaged in a cam­paign dur­ing the elec­tion called Vote Min­ing where we asked can­di­dates of all par­ties their thoughts re­gard­ing the in­dus­try. The NDP, Greens and Lib­er­als were all very sup­port­ive of its growth and sus­tain­abil­ity. The NDP gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted to a strong min­ing in­dus­try and to en­sur­ing that per­mits are pro­cessed in a timely man­ner.

We’ve just got to get down to

the de­tails of what the reg­u­la­tory process could look like, and do­ing it so we cap­ture this pretty good cy­cle we’re on right now. We’re on an up­swing where I think in­vest­ment can start flow­ing into the prov­ince in a big way.

Canadian min­ing com­pa­nies have a mixed en­vi­ron­men­tal and hu­man rights record. What needs to hap­pen there?

This in­dus­try is full of pas­sion­ate peo­ple who are do­ing their best and com­mit­ted to the prov­ince, and do­ing amaz­ing things at their projects, en­vi­ron­men­tally and oth­er­wise. Min­ing’s a very pro­gres­sive in­dus­try when you look at our op­er­a­tions and where we’re go­ing. So I think it’s about com­mu­ni­cat­ing more to Bri­tish Columbians and Cana­di­ans about what the in­dus­try is.

There’s also some legacy is­sues. Mod­ern min­ing is dif­fer­ent today than it was 50, 70 years ago, and so we need to com­mu­ni­cate where min­ing is at now and where we’re mov­ing to, es­pe­cially in tech­nol­ogy and en­vi­ron­men­tally.

How can the min­ing in­dus­try make it­self en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able?

For min­ing, it’s about tail­ings; it’s about wa­ter and how it’s man­aged on­site, es­pe­cially in a ju­ris­dic­tion like Bri­tish Columbia where we have so much wa­ter, we have so many moun­tain­ous ar­eas where you have to deal with wa­ter on your site, where you’re deal­ing with tail­ings im­pound­ments. It’s how we deal with that mov­ing for­ward, through tech­nol­ogy and other in­no­va­tions.

On the sus­tain­abil­ity side, we’re con­tribut­ing prod­ucts that will lead to a lower-car­bon econ­omy, but they’re go­ing to stay in the value chain for gen­er­a­tions. When you think of cop­per and how eas­ily re­cy­cled it is, you could re­use it so many times.

What big chal­lenges lie ahead?

It’s about en­sur­ing that we have a reg­u­la­tory process with ef­fec­tive, ef­fi­cient time­lines where if you’re go­ing to in­vest in the prov­ince, you know you’re go­ing to get a de­ci­sion in a timely man­ner.

Peo­ple are wait­ing for those op­por­tu­ni­ties to come for­ward, but they’re not go­ing to in­vest un­less they can see cer­tainty in the process. And by cer­tainty I mean a de­ci­sion. Maybe other in­dus­tries have done them­selves a dis­ser­vice by say­ing, “Let’s get to yes.” Let’s get to the right an­swer. That puts the trust back in the in­sti­tu­tions to say, “Yeah, we have re­ally ro­bust in­sti­tu­tions, and guess what? The an­swer’s not al­ways yes.” And it shouldn’t al­ways be yes, but you should be able to get an an­swer by X time.

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