Figure 1: Selected industrial mineral
mines, quarries and projects
in British Columbia.
Situated on the west coast of Canada, British Columbia (BC)
is served by several deepwater ports, a modern highway system
and a network of rail lines, linking the
province’s industrial centres to the rest of North
America and the Pacific Rim countries.
The main industrial minerals produced in BC (see Figure
1) are magnesite, limestone, gypsum, crushed rock, silica,
dimension stone and white calcium carbonate. Industrial
minerals produced in lesser quantities include jade (nephrite),
magnetite, dolomite, barite, pumice, flagstone, clay, tufa,
bentonite, fuller’s earth and zeolites.
The value of solid mineral production in 2015 is estimated
at Canadian dollar (C$) 7bn ($5.11bn*) (see Figure 2).
Although coal (43%) accounted for the largest share of revenue,
the contributions of industrial minerals (6%, or C$414m) and
aggregates (5%, or C$345m) are also significant. The value of
sulphur, recovered as a by-product of oil and natural gas
processing, is estimated at C$135m (FOB Vancouver).
Figure 2: Estimated solid mineral
production in BC for the year 2015 (estimates do
not reflect value-added processing).
Source: Modified from Clarke,
Metals, metal ore concentrates and coal produced in BC are
largely exported; however, a substantial portion of industrial
minerals are processed locally and incorporated or transformed
into finished products, such as cement, lime, wallboard, paper,
paint, absorbents, soil conditioners, fertilisers and
refractory materials. Consequently, industrial minerals and
aggregates have a much larger economic importance for BC than
is suggested by Figure 2.
For example, total production capacity at BC’s
three cement plants is 2.62m tonnes. Assuming these plants
operated at 90% of capacity and the price of cement was
C$170/tonne, the estimated value of cement produced in BC was
over C$400m last year. This is equivalent to the total worth of
BC’s industrial mineral production for 2015 and
illustrates the importance of value-added processing.
Similar to coal and metals markets, demand for industrial
minerals and aggregates is cyclic. However, the maxima and
minima of the industrial mineral and aggregate cycles are
commonly less pronounced and are not coincidental with the
metals cycle. Thus, during global economic downturns, companies
that normally explore for metals consider non-metallic mineral
Recent changes in markets present opportunities for
newcomers to industrial minerals. Reduced availability of fly
ash and synthetic gypsum, related to lower use of coal for
electricity generation in the US and Canada, may create new
opportunities for pozzolanic materials and natural gypsum. It
remains to be seen if BC will benefit from increased demand for
materials required for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
(e.g., solar grade silicon, rare earths and graphite).
Additionally, the effects of the proposed infrastructure
programme announced by the Canadian federal government may
benefit BC producers of cement and construction materials.
Review of industrial mineral activity
More than 30 industrial mineral mines or quarries
(Figure 1), at least 20 major sites where industrial
minerals were upgraded into value-added products and over 1,000
aggregate mining operations were active in BC in 2015.
Minerals produced in 2015
Fireside Minerals Ltd was the only barite (barytes) producer
in BC last year, with output of less than 30,000 tonnes barite.
This came mostly from the Bear pit and is expected to shift to
the Moose pit in 2016, both located in northern BC.
Besides Fireside, more than 200 barite occurrences have been
reported in BC, the largest of which are linked with
undeveloped zinc-lead deposits in the Gataga district
Figure 3: A thick zone of zinc-lead
mineralisation containing >40% barite, in northern
Source: Modified from Clarke,
Magnesite, limestone, white calcium carbonate (including
filler-grade high calcium carbonate) and dolostone, represent
an important portion of BC’s industrial mineral
BC hosts more than 60 known occurrences and resources of
magnesite. The Mount Brussilof deposit in
southeast BC is owned by Baymag Inc., and was the only deposit
in production in 2015 (Figure 4). Over the past few
years, the production rate has been about 220,000 tpa
magnesite. Most of the ore is transported to the
company’s processing plant in Exshaw, Alberta,
where it is converted into calcined magnesia. The Driftwood
Creek deposit, owned by MGX minerals Inc., also in southeast
BC, is currently the most active magnesite exploration project
in the province.
Limestone and lime
There are more than 400 limestone and calcium carbonate
occurrences in BC. The Gillies Bay (Texada Quarrying Ltd),
Blubber Bay (Ash Grove Cement Co.) and Van Anda (Imperial
Limestone Co. Ltd), are the main quarries on Texada Island (see
Figure 1). Production is traditionally shipped to the
lower mainland of BC, and to the US (to Washington State,
Oregon and California), for cement, chemical and, more
recently, agricultural and construction use. In 2015, 3.9m
tonnes were shipped from Gillies Bay and 360,000 tonnes from
In addition to pulp mills, which produce lime internally,
three cement plants and two lime plants process limestone.
Graymont Western Canada Inc.’s Pavilion Lake
limestone quarry and lime plant near Cache Creek has a
production capacity of about 190,000 tpa lime. The company is
also proposing to quarry limestone and operate a lime plant,
near Giscome, with an extraction rate of 600,000-1.2 m tpa
limestone. Lhoist North America of Canada Inc. operates a lime
plant in Langley, near Vancouver and owns a limestone quarry
5km southeast of Giscome.
White calcium carbonate
White, ground calcium carbonate, used as a filler and
extender, is produced by Imperial Limestone Co. Ltd.
(Van Anda quarry) and IMASCO Minerals Inc. (Benson
Lake quarry). In 2015, Benson Lake produced 56,000 tonnes white
calcium carbonate and 250,000 tonnes were extracted from Van
More than 40 dolomite occurrences are known in BC. Most are
in the Rocky Mountains, but a few are near the coast. In 2015,
Ash Grove Cement shipped approximately 10,000 tonnes of limy
dolostone from an area adjacent to its dormant
Blubber Bay limestone quarry.
Clay, shale and related raw materials
Figure 4: Mount Brussilof magnesite
The three cement plants in BC producing Portland cement have
a combined production capacity of 2.62m tpa. Limestone from
Texada island is used at the Lafarge Canada Inc. plant
in Richmond and the Lehigh Cement, a Division of Lehigh Hanson
Materials Ltd, plant in Delta. Sumas Shale Ltd
produces about 500,000 tpa raw materials (including
clay/shale, conglomerate and sandstone) from its Sumas Mountain
quarries for lower mainland cement plants.
The Decor pit (Figure 5), in the Hat Creek area,
owned by Pacific Bentonite Ltd. produced over 170,000
tonnes burnt shale for Lafarge’s cement plant in
Kamloops, south central BC in 2015.
Bentonite and fuller’s earth
Absorbent Products Ltd produced domestic and industrial
absorbents at its processing plant in Kamloops. Raw materials
were sourced principally from the Red Lake
fuller’s earth deposit north of Kamloops and from
the Bud bentonite deposit near Princeton. Several of the 34
other bentonite occurrences, such as deposits owned by Pacific
Bentonite near Hat Creek (Figure 6), and the HK
deposit, owned by Tillava Mining Corp., are technically
Clays for brick and medical uses
The province has over 100 clay deposits and occurrences.
Some of these were historically used in brick making, but BC
currently does not have any brick production. Most products
marketed as medical and cosmetic clays in BC are low
crystallinity glacial clays. The Ironwood Clay Company
Inc. is the best established producer in BC. It
seasonally extracts clay from the De Cosmos
Lagoon on Hunter Island, west of Bella Coola,
and in 2015 also produced similar material from the Bute Inlet
BC contains over 40 gypsum occurrences. Certainteed Gypsum
Canada’s operation, based in Windermere, produced
more than 340,000 tonnes from the Elkhorn mine
complex last year. The company also continued environmental and
design studies at the Kootenay West gypsum deposit. The
4J quarry of Georgia-Pacific Canada Inc. was
inactive in 2015, but shipped material from stockpiles to its
wallboard plant near Edmonton, Alberta. Lafarge Canada
typically mines up to 6,000 tpa gypsum from the Falkland
deposit for its Kamloops cement plant.
More than 300 occurrences of magnetite are known in BC.
M-Seven Industries Inc. has historically
produced 40,000-70,000 tpa magnetite annually from old mine
tailings for dense media separation (coal processing) and water
treatment plants. In 2014, Craigmont Industries opened a
magnetite plant at Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley
(Cu-Au-Ag) mine near Likely. Dormant in 2015, the operation
resumed in 2016.
BC has 80 known phosphate occurrences. HighBrix
Manufacturing Inc. shipped phosphate for agricultural spreading
from its Crow deposit in 2015. Currently, Fertoz Ltd is trying
to develop some deposits previously explored by Pacific Ridge
Exploration Ltd. The company recently applied for a
small mine permit for its Wapiti East project and conducted
environmental baseline studies at the Marten deposit.
Pumice, scoria, tephra and expanding
The Mount Meager operation, owned by Great Pacific Pumice
Ltd, north of Pemberton in southwest BC, provided
approximately 1,000 cubic metres of pumice last year. The
material from this deposit was tested as a pozzolanic additive
by a major cement producer. Garibaldi Pumice Ltd
produced approximately 18,000 cubic metres of pumice
from the nearby Garibaldi deposit. Lightweight Advanced
Volcanic Aggregates Inc. and its predecessor companies
typically produced about 20,000 cubic metres per year of tephra
from the Nazko quarry, located 100km west of Quesnel. The
operation ceased a few years ago, with significant resources
remaining. Five occurrences of expanding shale, including two
past producers, are on Vancouver, Salt Spring and Saturna
There are more than 30 significant silica occurrences in BC,
but only a few are currently in production. Heemskirk Canada
Ltd historically extracted and processed friable quartzite from
the Moberly mine near Golden, mainly for the glass industry.
This operation is under reconstruction to supply frac sand for
BC’s shale gas industry. At the Horse Creek Silica
mine (HiTest Sand Inc.), quartzite is intermittently
mined from the same geological unit for construction purposes.
Historically, both operations also supplied silica for
metallurgical grade silicon and ferrosilicon.
Figure 5: Decor deposit from where
Pacific Bentonite Ltd ships burnt shale (natural
Clay-bearing siliceous materials, historically mined at
Monteith Bay and currently at Apple Bay, are
in high demand for cement production in the US Pacific
Northwest. In 2015, Electra Stone shipped over 60,000 tonnes
silica-rich material from Apple Bay.
There are three active slag operations in BC.
Pacific Abrasives & Supply Inc. is
producing and processing slag from the historical Granby
smelter (Grand Forks). Slag was shipped from Anyox by Tru-Grit
for use as cement raw material, roofing granules and abrasive
applications. Teck is the major slag producer at its Trail
smelter, where it produces approximately 250,000 tpa.
Sulphur recovery as a by-product of oil and gas processing
debuted in the 1950s and satisfies more than 70% of the global
market. The remainder is covered by native-, frash well-, or
roasting of iron sulphides and base metal ores-derived sulphur.
Although12 occurrences of sulphur are known in BC, all sulphur
produced in the province is a by-product of natural gas
Zeolite group minerals
Most of the 26 known BC zeolite occurrences consist of
clinoptilolite. Recently, Canadian Mining Inc. signed an
agreement with Absorbent Products Ltd, which may pave the way
to mining the Bromley Creek zeolite quarry, originally operated
by Heemskirk Canada Ltd. A few other zeolite deposits are under
consideration for development by junior exploration
Minerals available, but not mined
Brucite and hydromagnesite
Brucite (Mg(OH)2) has a number of industrial and
environmental applications, while hydromagnesite
2O) is used largely as a flame retardant.
Figure 6: Typical "popcorn" texture of
Hat Creek bentonite. (Source: Laura Simandl,
University of Victoria)
There are at least 45 known diatomaceous earth occurrences
in BC. Examples of past producers are the Crownite deposit and
Clayburn excavation near Quesnel.
The province has at least 67 known fluorite occurrences. The
Rock Candy mine, north of Grand Forks, is the only past
producer of fluorite. It supplied ore to the Trail smelter and
small historical reserves remain underground.
There are 40 known garnet occurrences in BC, of which the
Stitt Creek placer deposit near Revelstoke and the Crystal Peak
deposit near Penticton have received the most
There are 44 known occurrences of graphite in the province.
Regions of BC underlain by amphibolite or granulite grade
metasedimentary rocks, have potential to host crystalline flake
or vein type graphite deposits. Some coal beds may have been
converted to amorphous graphite by low grade or contact
The Aley carbonatite is the largest and most developed
niobium (Nb) deposit in BC. Current resources are estimated at
285.8m tonnes at 0.37% niobium pentoxide
(Nb2O5) measured and indicated. The Upper
Fir carbonatite near Blue River contains an indicated
resource of 48.4m tonnes at 197 ppm tantalum pentoxide
(Ta2O5) and 1,610 ppm
Nb2O5 and an inferred resource of 5.4m
tonnes at 191 ppm Ta2O5 and 1760 ppm
Nb2O5. The Wicheeda Lake carbonatite
(Spectrum Minerals Corp.) was drilled in 2008 and
2009, and is the most developed rare earths project in BC. The
lesser known Rock Canyon Creek REE-fluorspar prospect is
another deposit with significant rare earths intersections.
Fifty five other REE occurrences are known in the
Kyanite and andalusite
More than 50 kyanite, andalusite and sillimanite occurrences
are known in BC.
Leonardite was documented at the Red Lake
fuller’s earth deposit, however, oxidised coal
seams elsewhere in BC may contain higher concentrations of
humic acid and be more extensive.
Nepheline syenite and feldspar
There are at least 10 significant feldspar and nepheline
syenite occurrences in BC, several of which have been
investigated by metallurgical studies.
An unserpentinised portion of the Tulameen ultramafic
complex is a potential source of foundry sand. A fresh dunite
deposit near Hope, referred to as the Cogburn
magnesium project, may also contain foundry
sand grade olivine.
Perlite and vermiculite
There are 25 perlite and five vermiculite occurrences known
in BC. Frenier and Francois Lake are the best known perlite
deposits in BC.
Most of the 60 known talc occurrences in BC are either
carbonate- or ultramafic rock-hosted. The most recent
carbonate-hosted talc showing was identified in the Bridesville
Eleven wollastonite occurrences are known in BC.
Historically, exploration was aimed at deposits to supply a
high-quality acicular filler for the plastic industry and
concentrates used in ceramics. It can also be used as a source
of silica and calcium in cement production to reduce
For further information on BC minerals, please consult
BC MINFILE, accessible free of charge at
Information on industrial minerals and specialty metals in the
province and the complete list of references can be obtained
An overview of exploration and mining in BC for 2015 is
Manuscript reviews by Gordon Clarke and BC regional
geologists Jeff Kyba, Bruce Northcote, Fiona Katay and Jim
Britton are appreciated.
*Conversion made February 2016