During the recent 2016 Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, British Columbia, The Honourable Robert McLeod, Premier of the Northwest Territories and Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, gave a presentation at the NWT Open House held at the Pinnacle Hotel Vancouver Harbourfront.
In his talk, he noted that the mining industry has played a significant role in the economic development of the Northwest Territories. He stressed that engaging the governments of the First Nations is an integral part of developing the mining sector in the NWT and could be a model for other parts of Canada.
He remarked that there are huge opportunities awaiting exploration companies in the Northwest Territories. “There are few other places in the world, let alone Canada, where mineral potential, industry talent and government come together like today’s Northwest Territories,” McLeod said. “The resource industry in particular, offers a very real means for raising the revenues necessary to bring the citizens of the Northwest Territories the changes they want. The mining industry in the Northwest Territories accounts for nearly 40% of our gross domestic product and we are committed to support it and strengthen its vitality.”
He said that as his government prepares to sit in its first legislative session he understands that developing the mining sector will bring many benefits including infrastructure growth to training, education, employment and revenue generation.
“There are a number of challenges to tackle and we are aware that industry as a whole is facing some of the same challenges but we also understand that we are dealing with an industry comprised of the brightest and most innovative business minds that have yet to be kept down by the downturn in commodity prices,” said McLeod.
He mentioned that the Northwest Territories hosts some of the largest proven mineral reserves in Canada and a virtually untapped rich geological potential capable of supporting a healthy minerals industry for generations to come. He noted that the De Beers/Mountain Province Gahcho Kué diamond mine is set to begin production later this year and then there is the advanced-stage Kennady Diamonds Project as well. In addition, there are the two producing diamond mines – Ekati and Diavik – that rank with the highest quality of diamonds produced in the world. “Gold in the Northwest Territories is poised to make a comeback with the TerraX Yellowknife City Gold Project and Nighthawk’s Indin Lake Gold Project,” he said.
“What we are missing today in the Northwest Territories is exploration. I assure you that the government of the Northwest Territories is working to bring certainty, investment and access to the table in order to address this challenge,” said McLeod. He said that the regulatory regime in which the NWT operates remains in control of the federal government. “Gaining that control to allow our government will create the basis of our regime that takes into consideration Aboriginal rights and provides the mining industry with more clarity and certainty,” he said. “We need the levers of control over the Northwest Territories. That’s why we need the legislation turned over to us in less than the five-year time frame proposed by the previous federal government.”
He went on to says that, “We cannot afford to have projects that are critical to the economy and wellbeing of the Northwest Territories’ stalled because of continued inefficiencies in the regulatory system. When I met with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett earlier this month, she was open to hearing more on how our government would like to proceed. The government of the Northwest Territories is committed to making progress on land claims and implementing a predictable northern design for the regulatory process. We want to break the logjam and get the outstanding issues settled.”
He said that for those prospecting and exploring the Northwest Territories, the assessment work incentive, implemented last year, provides an extra 50% credit for exploration work. “Under our mining incentive program, we have provided a direct investment of $800,000 to prospectors and junior exploration companies over the last two years, said McLeod. “This has contributed to many successful exploration programs. It’s tough to get new projects off the ground and we are working to provide the investment necessary to assist the growth of the grassroots projects.”
He stressed that in order to find something you need to look in the right place. “We are currently investing $4 million in state-of-the-art geological materials that will save a great deal of money for explorers,” he said. “For the long term, we also continue to support the mining industry with investments in infrastructure and access. This includes a study to consider the potential of a road through the Slave Geological Province linking up with a road in Nunavut that will provide unprecedented access to previously remote deposits in both our territories.”
He said that the 25-year transportation infrastructure plan will see nearly 1,000 km of new off-season roads to areas of highest geological potential, in time drastically reducing access barriers for the resource industry.
Regarding the slow devolution of the Northwest Territories from federal control, McLeod said, “I think it’s a question of unfinished business. We have everything else except the environmental assessment process which the federal government, in its wisdom, decided to keep and that we would review after five years. Now that there is a new federal government in Canada, we raised the topic with them because Prime Minister Trudeau had committed to do a thorough review of environmental assessment process throughout Canada. So we see that as an opportunity to fast-track the review so that we can deal with this unfinished devolution business.”