(Check against delivery)
Thank you for that introduction, Deb, and good evening everyone.
I would like to begin tonight by acknowledging that this conference is taking place on the traditional lands of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tseil-Waututh First Nations.
The mining industry has played a significant role in the economic prosperity of the Northwest Territories and there are a number of individuals present this evening that have contributed greatly the industry’s success in our territory and deserve recognition tonight.
The NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines - with whom we are co-hosting tonight's event - is a longstanding partner and resource in our work to realize the full extent of our territory's mineral potential. I would like to thank President Gary Vivian and Tom Hoefer for continuing to work with the Government of the Northwest Territories as advocates for the mining industry.
I would also like to recognize the many community leaders from across the Northwest Territories who have taken the time to attend this evening. I have been pleased to see representatives from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Yellowknives Dene First Nation and Denedeh Investment Corporation, as well as a substantial delegation from the Sahtu here at Roundup. Their presence here highlights the important role that Aboriginal governments and people play in the territorial economy and society. Engaging them respectfully as partners and ensuring they have meaningful opportunities to participate in and benefit from resource development is crucial to the success of any project in our territory. Our government’s partnership approach to working with Aboriginal governments is an approach that has created success in the Northwest Territories that could be a model for other parts of Canada.
I would also like to acknowledge the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Minister of Lands - and newly designated Minister of Finance Robert C. McLeod (the other Minister McLeod). Minister McLeod was instrumental in leading the establishment of our Department of Lands - formed as a result of 2014’s landmark Devolution agreement that brought control of our lands and resources home to the Northwest Territories.
Our colleague the Honourable Glen Abernethy is also in attendance.
The leadership of our NWT mining sector is well represented tonight - Gren Thomas, Glen Koropchuk, Brendan Bell, Jim Gowan. Thank you for being here tonight and for your commitment and ongoing partnership in our northern mining sector.
Congratulations to Eira Thomas who tomorrow will be receiving the AMEBC Hugo Dummett Diamond Award for Excellence for her significant contributions to diamond exploration, discovery and mine development in Canada. It seems like almost every year someone who has been involved in mineral exploration in the Northwest Territories is receiving an award acknowledging their achievements.
I would also like to congratulate a dedicated, highly-respected community leader whose footprints are already deep and enduring in our Territory.
He was chosen, this year, to receive the prestigious Skookum Jim Award which he will be awarded at PDAC this March. His innovation, hard work and dedication to the mineral industry in his community have improved the lives of many. I am talking, of course about Mr. Darrell Beaulieu.
Darrell's leadership of Det’on Cho Corporation, Denendeh Investment Corporation, and DEMCO — along with his countless board memberships — has succeeded in bringing Dene participation in our mineral industry to the fore.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honour to join you - the leaders of Canada’s ever-important mining industry - and to speak tonight about the huge economic 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 comes together like today’s Northwest Territories.
I am equally honoured to be here this year, not only as Premier of the Northwest Territories, but as its Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
It is a portfolio I have chosen to take on because of the critical role that our economy must play in addressing the challenges that we face. 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 from the newly elected 18th Legislative Assembly.
The mining industry plays a significant role in the economic success of the Northwest Territories. It accounts for nearly 40% of the territory’s GDP, and am committed to supporting its continued strength and vitality.
As our government prepares to sit in our first legislative session, we understand that sustaining and growing our mining sector will help us on many fronts; from infrastructure growth, to training and education, to employment, to revenue generation.
There are a number of challenges to tackle and we aware that industry as a whole is facing some of the same challenges.
But we also understand that we are dealing with an industry - North and South - comprised of the brightest, most innovative business minds that have yet to be kept down by downswings in commodity markets.
We have some of the largest proven mineral reserves in Canada; a virtually untapped, rich geological potential capable of supporting a healthy minerals industry for generations to come.
Gahcho Kue — the world’s largest new diamond mine — is set to begin production later this year.
There are huge opportunities to extend diamond production in the Kennady Lake region, with Kennady Diamonds yielding positive results in 2015.
Gold in the Northwest Territories is poised to make a comeback with TerraX’s Yellowknife City Gold project and Nighthawk’s Indin Lake project showing positive results in the last year.
And, there is no question about the quality of the minerals that exist in our Territory. Our diamonds rank among the highest quality in the world by carat composition. Our friends at Diavik received an exciting reminder of this last July with their discovery of the now world-famous Foxfire diamond.
What we are missing in the Northwest Territories today is exploration. I assure you today that the Government of the Northwest Territories is working to bring certainty, investments and access to the table in order to address this challenge.
Let’s begin with Certainty. It has been a challenge in our Territory. The regulatory regime we operate under remains in control of the Federal Government. Gaining that control to allow our government to create a made-in-the-north system, that takes into consideration Aboriginal rights and provides the mining industry with more clarity and certainty. We need the levers of control in the Northwest Territories, and that is why we need the legislation turned over to us in less than the five-year time frame proposed by the previous government. We cannot afford to have projects that are critical to the economy and wellbeing of the Northwest Territories stall 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 about how our government would like to proceed. We want certainty for our territory, economy and our people.
Remember this. The single most important piece in realizing greater certainty for our territory and its investors is one that has now been set. Devolution has brought control of our lands and resources from the federal government home to the territories. The impact of this cannot be overstated. Devolution allows our territory to provide responsive policy solutions for land and resource issues.
We recognize that making land available in an orderly and responsible manner by finalizing land claims and land use plans will help support responsible resource development consistent with the values and priorities of our residents.
I have committed to finding the common ground that will allow us to settle our Territory's outstanding land claims in the next four years. As a matter of fact I committed to having new offers on the table within 90 days of taking office. I am very aware that the clock is ticking and rest assured my officials are too. I have also committed to leading a government that speaks with a common voice and takes a balanced approach to land use planning.
The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to making progress on land claims and implementing a predictable, northern-designed regulatory process. We have already raised these issues with Canada and said very clearly that the Federal government needs to be a willing partner, one who will take a flexible approach so we can break the log-jam and get the outstanding claims settled. We continue to engage Aboriginal governments in the Northwest Territories in the spirit of respect, recognition and responsibility, fostering an environment of partnership and cooperation that provides the foundation for development in NWT communities and regions.
The Government of the Northwest Territories is reliant on the guidance and support of our communities and regions to keep our economy moving. We are the only Government in Canada committed to ensuring Aboriginal governments share in the benefits of economic development both by sharing in resource revenues and through direct employment and contracting.
In other areas, we have taken steps to double-down on our support for those of you already prospecting and exploring in our region. Our Assessment Work Incentive — implemented last year — provides an extra 50% credit for exploration work a company files in our Territory. 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 and this has contributed to many programs successes.
It is tough to get new projects off the ground; and we are working to provide the investment necessary to assist the growth of the grassroots. We all know that in order to find something, you need to look in the right place.
We are currently investing $4 million in a state-of-the-art Geological Materials Collection facility in Yellowknife that will provide major equipment savings for those considering or expanding mineral exploration projects in the NWT.
In the long term, we continue to support the mining industry with investments in infrastructure that will facilitate access to the NWT’s rich mineral reserves and improve the economics of northern projects – and I do mean northern projects here. We continue to study 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
We are also working towards our vision of improving access to resource-producing regions - paving the way for greater prosperity through greater access. Our 25 year transportation infrastructure plan will see nearly 1000km of new all-season road built across some of our areas of highest geological potential - in time drastically reducing access barriers for the resource industry.
Benefits from NWT projects are enjoyed nationally. In this area, we continue to see a role for the federal government; in supporting economic development with promised federal infrastructure funding.
Since the 1930’s, minerals have been instrumental in bringing the jobs, revenues, and opportunities necessary to make the Northwest Territories a good place to live for its citizens. As we navigate our way through this tough economy, we recognize the importance of ensuring our mineral industry remains front of mind as we prepare for the up-cycle.
What I will leave you with is this.
In the Northwest Territories today, we have a government with a renewed mandate; with control of resources – with the proven ability to nurture and support major projects and committed to taking proactive actions in time for when commodities rise.
As I said at the beginning, 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. That is our challenge and our opportunity. There is nothing like a shared struggle to bring northerners together. We share those characteristics with you in the mining industry. We do not back down from a fight, we are resilient and together we will prosper.