British Columbia's largest export is minerals, accounting for $140 billion in export value over the decade to 2014. We know this means lots of jobs, so why do mining people struggle to illustrate this to others?
Anecdotally, to see the impact of mining all you have to do is look at the lobby directory of a downtown building in Vancouver, and not just in the financial district.
For every direct mining position at a mine site, at least 2 indirect jobs are supported, according to Alec Morrison of the Mining Suppliers Association of B.C. & Mining Association of B.C.
When this phenomenon was last put under the microscope in an intensive way, in 2011, that meant British Columbia had 46,000 mining jobs. The export data shown below, from the British Columbia government's most recent Financial and Economic Review, emphasizes the product volume and value of goods shipped, but says nothing about how this translates to jobs.
In the present commodity price downturn, the focus has tended to be on the jobs we are losing rather than the jobs we have. At times like this, the pain is felt in towns where mines are closed, and also in the goods and services supply chain. Even so, it's not clear that this information is tracked in a sectoral sense.
A study of the Ontario mining sector divided the mining services sector up as follows:
- Mining equipment, supplies and services companies - includes mining equipment manufacturers and dealers, chemical manufacturers and providers, electronic/communications equipment manufacturers and providers, companies providing trade/logistics solutions, and other goods and services providers.
- Mining contract services companies - includes engineering companies, construction and drilling companies, companies providing geophysical and testing solutions, metal fabricators, and other companies that would typically provide services to the mining sector for the development and operation of a mine site.
- Consulting services and other related companies - includes consulting companies, financial service providers, environmental consulting companies, information technology companies, law, accounting and other professional services firms, and other companies that provide services to the mining sector that extend beyond the mine site.
Still, these questions remain when it comes to Vancouver:
- How many of these roles are there?
- Where are they - i.e., how many office towers (or, for that matter, suburban business parks) are filled with mining-related workers?
The enjoyable work by Visual Capitalist to bring home the impact of mining to urban dwellers is one of the best things ever done to tell that story, but it leaves us only wanting more. (The image here shows one year of metallurgical coal transformed into an immense cube placed at the foot of Granville Street in Vancouver.)
The Business Council of British Columbia focused on a single building, the Bentall 5 tower, to illustrate the impact of resource industries generally. The resulting slide reproduced here is fascinating. Now imagine what it would look like to have this work done for every building.
For those who find it challenging at times to authentically represent the deep urban impact of mining, having empirical data about this aspect of the industry would come in handy.