Lessons learnt at the Asia Pacific Forum on Mining and Minerals, which took place recently in Vancouver:

1. There are manygreat ore bodies in the region waiting to be discovered and mined.

2. In most countries politics is more important than mine development.

3. Mining laws are non-existent, in a state of flux, or grossly unfair by western standards.

4. If you are brave enough to go mining in the region, get a trusted local partner and engage local lawyers and North American lawyers skilled in the region.

5. Be prepared to make up for major deficiencies in local schools, hospitals, and democratic institutions.

6. Watch out for well-funded NGOs who earn their living opposing mining. They enjoy foreign travel as much as the rest of us.

The Forum was introduced by Pierre Lebel, Forum Chairman, Mining Association of British Columbia and Chairperson Imperial Metal Corporation. Projected on the screen behind him, the proud announcement: BC the best place in the world.Hardly subtle, but with summer just ending and the light rains of fall settling in over the mountains, city, and sea who could disagree?

Next was The Honorable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Canada. Short of stature but even through his censored speech, clearly a man of decision and natural charm. He announced that tomorrow he would announce federal government initiatives in support of Canadian mining. He admitted that he is from BC and agrees that it is the best place in the world, although official government policy does not support such bold pronouncements.

His drum-roll announcement: the Government of Canada that the government is financing a five-year $150,000,000 Major Projects Management Office. Apparently this will be a single-point of entry to getting many permits from the government. It is intended to track projects as they work their way through the government permitting process. They will establish (and hopefully live up to) "time frames and targets." They will be "accountable" as they provide "oversight" of the flow of your permit applications through the federal system. This office will start up in early 2008 with the 50 major projects currently seeking permits from the federal government; 25 of them are from British Columbia, most of them mines. We wish these folk well and facility with Microsoft Project software and a persuasive tone on the telephone.

The Honorable Richard Neufeld, Ministerof Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Government of British Columbia hails from northeastern BC, where he tells us unemployment is immeasurable because of the mining boom. He was a little long on statistics for a late Sunday evening talk, but from it I recall that there are over 500 aggregate and gravel mines in BC. Maybe we spend too much time focusing on the glamour of gold and too little time on the materials that make our houses, schools, and hospitals. Were there any representatives in the hall from the aggregate industry?

Due acknowledgements to New Gold and Elk Valley Coal without whom I suspect it would not have been possible. If like me this is your first encounter with New Gold, here is a description:

New Gold Inc. (NGD-TSX/AMEX) is a natural resource exploration and development company which has been engaged in the acquisition, exploration, and development of natural resources since 1980. Over the past seven years, the company's principal focus has been on the exploration and development ofthe New Afton Copper-Gold Project located 10 kilometers west of Kamloops, British Columbia.

The speakers were interesting and gave strong presentations.David Emerson said theConservative government has set out to make sure Canadian companies are at the top of and deeply embedded in the mining supply chain; he noted the government plans to downplay export promotion and emphasize supply-chain dominance.This is part of the new CANADA ADVANTAGE policy of the current federal government.

Heherson T. Alvarez of the Philippine Mining Company urged investment in his country, promising us that corruption is under control now that two ex-leaders are banned or in jail. I will pass this one over to those bloggers who make investment recommendations.

Yuen Pau Woo of the Asia Pacific Foundation told us why China is downplaying riots in Burma: the Chinese want Burma's oil and gas and the route for a pipeline through the country. He noted the contrast between the United States where the economy may be in trouble and China where control of runaway development is a problem. Makes you wonder about the coming home to roost of the chickens of all those social theories. I suppose it’s all OK if you are not a monk seeking religious freedom.

Lukas Lundin, Chairman of Lundin Mining Corporation and Eric Nonacs, Managing Director for Global Affairs, Endeavour Financial and Senior Advisor to the William J. Clinton Foundation talked of the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative and the work they intend to do in Peru, and Africa to promote sustainable mining and implement President Bill Clinton's concepts of the moral and ethical principles of mutually aligned self interests and the concept that you are going to have to mine, so you may as well have good mining and not bad mining.

Robert Friedland, the head of Ivanhoe Mines, talked of new company mines in Mongolia and Australia.An admitted sixties hippy, he now puts into practice the ideals of that era.He noted that the name of the new Mongolian Mine pit is the Hugo mine, named for Hugo Dummett, a geologist many of us were lucky to know and like.

The prize for best speaker and intellect must go to Eric Nonacs. Here is his "biography":

Eric Nonacs, former foreign policy advisor to ex-President Bill Clinton and the William J Clinton Foundation, has joined Vancouver's Endeavour Financial as its managing director for global affairs. Nonacs will also be working on the set-up and implementation of the recently announced Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI). Launched in New York on June 21 by Clinton and Endeavour's former chair Frank Giustra, CGSGI aims to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable economic development by combining the resources of the Clinton Foundation and the world's mining sector. Endeavour is a merchant banker specializing in the global resource sector.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the difficulty of working in Asia Pacific countries is getting a visa for North American staff. Belkis Muldoon, Director of Global Resources, Littler Mendelson Global and Craig Munroe, Partner, Heenan Blaikie gavea fascinating presentation on what it takes to get a visa for technical experts you may want to send to an Asia Pacific country to work. Again it all boils down to: hire the right legal firm and be prepared to wait& pay. And do not try to send families that consist of domestic partners, same-sex couples, restricted nationals, or unmarried young men. A restricted national is someone whose profile could be interpreted to be a potential terrorist.

The many PowerPoint presentations from the Forum will be available the website of The Mining Association of British Columbia. So if you missed the meeting, you can see the best on your computer screen. The oneI recommend you look at is from Cecilia Dalupan, Attorney and Policy Specialist, Sustainable Development Strategies Group. She made a comprehensive presentation on global warming and carbon credits in the mining industry. My summary of her presentation:

China and India are generating carbon credits at an incredible rate and growing rich selling them. The mining industry has neither generated nor sold any carbon credits to speak of, although there is a world of opportunity awaiting the smart miner.

Cecilia's summary of her presentation:

  1. Engage (I think she meant get involved and do something)
  2. Assess the impact of climate change on your operations
  3. Develop a climate change response strategy (after engaging an expert and a lawyer.)

My recommendations to the organizers for next year's meeting:

  1. Recognize that the Asia Pacific region includes the west coast of the United States
  2. Allow more time to socialize--we were rushed from talk to talk faster than the rides at Disneyland
  3. Set a casual dress code.

The only down note is the (presumed) cultural gap across Canada and the Asia Pacific region: Two examples:

  1. Some Chinese delegates told a colleague they had come to hear how to mine and make money, not hear about western social philosophies.
  2. The fellownext to me at lunch said he had come to find mine properties to buy, but complained that he got bombarded by social theory instead.