4. Resources in British Columbia

Summary

While all organisms require biological resource to survive, Geography is more concerned with the human perspective of resources and how resources can be used to satisfy human needs.  More recently, resources have become connected to processes of capitalism and economic development. Most natural resources are now controlled by governments or by powerful corporations.

Resources are often viewed with one of two, often opposing, perspectives; Economic or Ecological, and there is a distinction between man-made resources and natural resources. A substance becomes a natural resource when cultural value is giving to a substance, when it benefits society, or when it benefits the economic system.

British Columbia is rich with natural resources, and the extraction of these resources has had a major influence on the development of British Columbia. Mining in BC represents 43% of BC’s natural resource revenues, with coal alone accounting for 39% of the total volume of goods shipped from the Port of Vancouver. However, mining also comes with social and environmental costs, including strained relations with First Nations regarding land access and threatening the provinces water system.

British Columbia was the site of a number of gold rushes from 1850-1890 during which the first Chinese community was established in the province in Barkerville. Both women and First Nations had important, but often underrepresented roles during this period. Women often panned for gold alongside male miners, while First Nations knowledge of the local geography made them valuable guides until miners were familiar enough with the land that they did not need the services of First Nations guides anymore and First Nations people were marginalized on their own lands.

Indeed, the relationship between mining and First nations in British Columbia has historically been seen as a double edged sword, bringing economic benefits to First Nations communities on one hand, while often interfering with their traditional use of the land. This uneasy relationship is illustrated in the second case study which examines the relationship between The Carrier Nation and Thompson Creek Metals and the Endako Mine.