British Columbia

Demand for copper in electric car manufacturing could boost B.C.'s mining industry, minister says

B.C.'s government is taking a closer look at how to create stable jobs in the mining sector as demand for components such as copper in electric vehicles expands.

Newly named provincial task force will look for ways to create stable mining jobs, ride out price swings

B.C's Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall announces the creation of a mining jobs task force Monday in front of a hybrid car parked at the B.C. Legislature. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

B.C.'s government is taking a closer look at creating stable jobs in mining as the industry tries to capitalize on rising demand for copper in the manufacture of electric vehicles.

B.C. is the largest copper producer in the country.

Electric and hybrid cars require up to four times more copper than standard cars, said Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minster Michelle Mungall, standing beside a hybrid-electric car in front of the provincial legislature Monday.

Copper is used mostly in the batteries, motors and wiring of electric vehicles. 

"A lot of the industry is looking at exploring for that copper so it can meet that future demand," she said.

Mining operations in B.C. also supply other materials that are used in cleaner vehicles, such as steelmaking coal.

To help take advantage of potential growth, the province has set up a task force that will review mining and exploration.

The 12-member mining jobs task force includes representatives from labour, industry, First Nations, post-secondary education and environmental organizations. 

'Be wary of the fluctuations'

The industry currently employs about 30,000 people in B.C., but those jobs come and go depending on global commodity prices.

One of the goals of the task forces is to find ways to help mines stay viable when commodity prices fall, Mungall said.

Any assistance to provide more stability is welcome, said Michelle Laurie, a staff representative with the United Steelworkers.

"The value of our natural resources, our mineral resources, is largely determined by a global marketplace," she said. "We need to be wary of the fluctuations."

 The task force is expected to report back to the minister in November.