Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Short Exchange about the woes of Lillooet with Erdman

Mining is a long shot at the best of times. There are only a few dozen mines in BC and maybe another 30-50 strong projects in development.

The Lillooet area has some potential, but nothing really dramatic at the moment. The Elizabeth Project is mainly a stock market thing and not much else. Bralorne - I have no idea what Louis Wolfin is doing, it looked good on paper but nothing is happening. Much of the highest potential for mines has been made off limits in the South Chilcotin park. There is some early stage exploration happening near Lytton, but all early stage projects are longshots. I believe that the Cayoosh Creek area near to town holds a strong potential for a hard rock gold mine. The area has not been really looked at by anyone in decades or more and modern technology has never been used to explore the old mine sites.

And finally there is Hat Creek.......

What you do not note is micro hydro. The Lillooet region has the potential to produce thousands of megawatts of micro-hydro (Walden North is one example in operation). There are hundreds of sites in the region. If you were to develop 5 to 10 per year you would be producing a lot of blue collar construction work for decades. Something in the order of 100 construction related jobs per year. Once the sites are build, there is a need for people to operate them and maintain them, the more there are, the more people will be able to base themselves out of Lillooet permanently for the work.

Small manufacturing has always been possible, but Lillooet is not in a good location for it because of the logistic problems.

I still believe the former forestry building would be a good office complex and should be put to that use. Imagine convincing a video games company to make use of it for their work. It gives them away to offer a very different lifestyle for their workers - or even allow them to 'get out of the city' for a few months and be in adventure land.

Lillooet's biggest tourism problem is that it lacks the infrastructure to get people to stay and enjoy. First off the town needs a backpackers hostel - whoever figures out that one will have a strong and steady business 12 months of the year. Second the area needs to make the back country the focus and offer ways to help people get out there and enjoy the hiking, ice climbing and other more extreme adventure tourism. I believe there is a very good business possible for someone to be a Stein Valley taxi service - drive people to the top from the road that comes off of the Duffy Lake and then pick them up in Lytton. Connect this to a place with overnight accommodation and you can charge for 2 nights in town to stay (one before and one after) and another fee for the drop off and pick.

Agriculture needs at least a few people with some money to build up the business. The heavy gardening/light farming model is not going to make for the break out.

Lillooet should look at a food tourism - wine, artisan cheeses, breads, fruits and a decent restaurant or two that cater to the upper end.

jade valley wrote:
Some thoughts re financials and local forest sector (not for paper, just thoughts) We must admit that the article below is dramatic and when such 'reputable' outlets say this, the whole truth is probably a lot more dramatic than that:


When one reads the above financial article by CNN and considers its alarmist message in tandem with the article in the Lillooet News last week saying that our local mill's company is close to a billion in debt and can't meet obligations to bond holders, and bond holders won't renegotiate payment schedules, and when one then factors in the dramatic decline in housing starts and all the unclaimed houses flooding the market due to sub-primes, one must ask if the long- predicted diminution of our local forest industry component is not closer than we thought. If so, the question then becomes 'What next?'

a) tourism, b) agriculture, c) mining d) small manufacturing?....

d) Small manufacturing, whether a tech media studio, pottery, jade carving, furniture-making like Walden North once did, or food processing is possible and can benefit from the relatively low overhead cost-benefits in living here.

c) Mining is seeing a dramatic up-swing across the Province and particularly the Kamloops area and this local highly mineralized region has many proven deposits of copper, silver, molybdenite, nickel, as well as the gold region able to produce again with new technology and capitalization. It needs a 'mineral miner', not a 'paper miner'.

b) Agriculture was once much more developed here than now. Lillooet had a fruit growers co-op selling volume to the coast as well as a cannery in the building of the second hand store next to the railway. When Lillooet was host to the Japanese-Canadian internment camps, they soon produced many fields of vegetables supplying this cannery. When I was a teen, I remember large fields of onions, beans, and field tomatoes machine harvested and shipped to the coast market both across the river and out Texas creek Rd. As these 'high end yield' products went, they were replaced largely by hay production, which, in effect, exports large volumes of nutrients from benchland topsoil at very low income per acre compared to more intensive agriculture like U Pik. The price of food is rising dramatically, and the rising cost of gas mandates that food be grown closer to home.

a) Tourism is perhaps our most under-developed potential, due in part to the forest industry's discomfort with the 'environmentalism' associated with this industry.
Also, many workers comfortable with the forest industry or mining industry do not see themselves easily making the adjustment to the tourism industry, and this fear is often expressed as: ' I don't want a job as a chambermaid for some lodge.' The reality is different, of course. The tourism industry requires a wide variety of jobs, from lift mechanics to all the trades, continuing construction crews, to cooks, managers, service industry professionals, guides, drivers, pilots, white collar workers, and all kinds of ancillary job aspects and new industries that attach themselves here due to the proximity of a tourism venue here.

The 'government sector' is a 'service sector' to industry; it is not industry as such and cannot provide a substitute for a productive economic base. When we are talking about the 'economic development' of a region, we are talking about 'private sector economic development', and no amount of government initiatives, studies, commissions, and safety nets can make up for the global fact that economic productive activity that works is private sector activity. Our post-war decades, globally, have proven this in spades, and locally we have borne witness to this for decades now.

What governance at all levels CAN do locally, is send out the message (advertising) about our local advantages of climate, resources, and favoured location so that the private sector with the required skills and capitalization knows we exist. With always forestry to fall back on, we have not done this, and so have fallen way behind the rest of the province in this regard of diversifying our economic options in the interest of long-term job-stability. This diversification initiative has been talked about for decades, but not effectively acted upon. With the alarming news about the US financial situation noted in the CNN article linked above, I would expect it's time to make up for lost ground in this regard.

Best regards, ET-M

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