The first northern BC minerals conference was held in Terrace in 1989, though the name Minerals North was not adopted until the third conference held in Stewart in 1991. From the onset, the events were more than just another mining conference. They were a forum where people were invited into communities to meet and discuss aspects of the industry with people having many different connections to, and opinions on, mineral exploration and development.
The concept of a Minerals North Association was discussed at the 1991 conference, as well as over beverages during the winter of 1992. The intent was to not only facilitate an annual conference, but also to provide a northern perspective to land use debates and to promote the economic benefits of the industry in the north part of the province.
This was a time of low exploration expenditure and controversy over the proposed Windy Craggy Mine. One of the new association’s first endeavours was to organize a conference on Windy Craggy in conjunction with local environmental groups, with invites to representatives from all sides of the debate. The idea was that open dialogue was the way to attempt to resolve issues. The decision by the BC government to make the area of the mine a park negated the need for the planned conference; however the understanding and goodwill between people with different outlooks on the issue that resulted from working together remain.
The advocacy roles of Minerals North declined over time as members were occupied by family, work and other community commitments, but the annual conference continued unabated. The goal of getting mineral industry and non-industry people to talk to each other, and more importantly listen to each other, has been central to the conferences, as has the intent of providing a forum for northern communities to find out what economic opportunities the industry presents, while being able to showcase what services and products they can provide.
Minerals North is held in a different location each year, with each host community being responsible for organizing and undertaking the event. The conference attendants are a mixture of residents from communities throughout northern BC, including an increasing number from First Nation communities, mining and exploration company representatives, service providers and local and provincial politicians. Not only does the mix of people make the conference unique, so does the atmosphere. Communities have put huge effort into the conferences, and the friendliness and open hospitality has been the thing delegates most remember. Many have remarked that it felt like they were invited right into the living rooms of the hosts.
Attendance has swelled with the success of past conferences and the robust state of the mineral industry. However, Minerals North is committed to keeping the conference as a community effort and moving the venue between different locations, including some of the smaller communities, as this has been a large part of its success. Sometimes this makes for challenges with accommodation, transportation and services, but since this has been overcome by hard work and incredible hospitality at every conference so far, the continued success of Minerals North seems likely.
The Minerals North Conference Association was incorporated as a British Columbia not-for-profit society in January of 2011.