Wally Schumann: Keynote speech, Mines and Money Conference

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Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

It has been a pleasure to be a part of this event this week - and to have the opportunity to meet and engage with those of you who are the leaders and innovators of the mining and finance sectors.

It is an added privilege to be able to speak with you today on the subject of Future Mineral Development Opportunities.

Canada’s Northwest Territories lies east of Alaska and the Yukon, directly north of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.  It stretches north from the 60th parallel all the way to the Arctic Ocean.

The Northwest Territories is vast, rugged and sparsely populated for a land mass roughly the size of France and Germany combined.  The total population of the Northwest Territories is approximately 40 thousand people. To most of you - a small city.

What we lack in people, we make up for in resources - and a staggering amount of mineral rich land that awaits exploration.  

We have some of the largest proven mineral reserves in Canada; a virtually-untapped rich geological potential capable of supporting a healthy mining sector for generations to come.

This means opportunity and a number of advantages for those willing to partner with us to advance the future of responsible resource development in our territory.   

These advantages are what I would like to tell you about today.

In my view they fall into three categories: supply, stability and support. 

More specifically, the supply of resources that the NWT can offer; the stability of our political environment; and, the support you will find for mining – both from our government and our people.

Let me begin with supply.

The Northwest Territories has a proud history of gold mining.  It is the commodity which founded our capital city of Yellowknife and gave rise to highly productive gold mines. In fact, we have an old saying that Yellowknife was “a city where the gold is paved with streets”.

Exploration and investment into gold mining continues today – TerraX Minerals Inc., for example, has undertaken field work on the Yellowknife City Gold project, just north of Yellowknife.

Meanwhile, thanks to industry giants like De Beers, Rio Tinto, and Dominion - diamonds have grown and transformed our economy.  With three active diamond mines and nearly $2 billion in production value each year - the NWT is the third largest producer of diamonds by value in the world. 

Although it began as a frontier gold town, Yellowknife is now known as the diamond capital of North America.

And, by all accounts, there’s more to come.  When it comes to estimated mineral potential, our Slave Geological Province has been compared to the legendary Abitibi Belt in northern Ontario and Quebec.

Not all of the NWT’s viable projects have been mined.  Only a fraction of the NWT’s resource-rich land has been explored. 

In varying degrees, the NWT has identified projects in copper, silver, iron, tungsten, zinc nickel, lead and rare earths. 

It’s an impressive inventory. We have the supply. 

But just as important, we have the right kind of supply.  With rising demand for rare earths and metals, the search is on for new supply sources to power the clean economy of the future.

The Northwest Territories is well-positioned to provide this much-needed diversity in supply.   With 12% of the world’s bismuth, large deposits of rare earths and confirmed lithium resources, our territory is primed and ready to work with industry as it returns to the North to invest, explore and power the technologies of the future. 

The issue of supply leads logically to the discussion of stability.

There are other resource-rich regions in the world. 

But I would suggest to you that the political stability of the Northwest Territories offers a better option for those looking to build a long-term, reliable production-base in a wide array of minerals. In the NWT, business certainty is achieved by settling land claims and establishing agreements that ensure our residents and Aboriginal groups share in the benefits of responsible resource development.

Those of you who are familiar with the North will know that I have only recently inherited responsibilities as the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. It is a responsibility that I am committed to and excited about advancing in the coming years.

This role was formerly held by Premier Bob McLeod, a life-long champion of responsible resource development in the North. Through his work as Premier, he is committed to finding the common ground that will allow us to settle the two outstanding land claims in the life of this government.

We know that with a predictable, northern-designed regulatory regime founded in settled claims we can support responsible resource development consistent with the values and priorities of our Aboriginal governments and residents.

We are already leaders in building the strong, defined environment of Aboriginal engagement and participation that exists in our mining sector.   We work in concert with Aboriginal governments to share in the decision-making, knowledge, and even direct benefits of our resource industries - ultimately building a stronger foundation for exploration, investment and development.

Thanks to an historic agreement that devolved responsibilities from Canada’s federal government, our jurisdiction is in a unique position to enhance stability and certainty within our land and resource regime.  It has enabled us to pursue new approaches on many levels. We now control our own destiny.

We boast a defined regulatory and permitting process, and a proven track record of getting projects on-stream.  And most importantly we are willing to work with industry to address challenges to stability which may arise.

Last week we celebrated the opening of the Gahcho Kué Mine– the world’s newest diamond mine.  To get it on stream, we advanced a life-of-mine water licence, a first in the NWT, which provides added certainty for the investment made by DeBeers and Mountain Province.  

Added certainty founded on political stability.

Foundational to the political stability of our region is the support that exists for mining - both from our government and our people.

The mandate of our government articulates specific support for mining and infrastructure, along with legislative initiatives to advance investor certainty and confidence.  The proof is in the NWT Mineral Development Strategy - a specific, overarching plan to promote and support mineral development in the NWT.  

Under our NWT Mining Incentive Program, more than 1 million dollars has flowed to junior mining and exploration companies in the last three years, companies willing to invest in our North.

We have invested heavily to ensure world-class geoscience information is publicly available and contributes to enhancing exploration and development activity in our North.

We continue to invest and expand our trained, experienced resident workforce.  And like only a small jurisdiction can, we work directly with companies to navigate the business landscape and facilitate the all-important relationships with our communities. 

Like their government, our citizens also support the mining sector; an increasingly important feature for those of you seeking the social license to build sustainable projects.

A recent public opinion survey showed that 80 percent of Northwest Territories residents felt positively about the mining industry; 86 percent believe a strong mining sector is vital to the long-term health of the NWT economy; 86 percent say mining is good for the NWT; 83 per cent say regulation of the sector works well and 82 percent would like to see more mining projects in the NWT.

It makes sense — with almost a century-long history of mining in our territory, most of our citizens have seen for themselves, or through their family and friends, the benefits which come with a healthy mining sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, in addition to being the Minister responsible for industry, tourism and investment, I also hold portfolios for transportation and public works.

I would be remiss if I did not leave you with this.

A few short years ago, our economy was operating at a frenzied pace.  Resource prices were strong, the labour market was tight, equipment and material costs were high.  Construction costs were escalating weekly. 

The recession has moderated things. There’s less competition for goods and people.  The labour market isn’t as stretched.  Prices for material have come down.  It’s a more affordable time to pursue projects. 

Our economic future depends on our ability to develop the infrastructure necessary to support today’s and tomorrow’s industries.  This includes energy infrastructure that lowers costs, improves system reliability, and reduces environmental impacts; communications infrastructure, like the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Line, that changes the way we transmit and use information and allows the NWT to diversify our economy into knowledge-based industries; all- weather roads to make it easier for people and goods to travel between communities and reduce the costs of doing business.

As government, we are making strategic infrastructure investments so that we can grow a strong, diversified economy.  That includes infrastructure to support economic growth, infrastructure to prepare for natural resource development, and infrastructure to connect our communities and increase access to essential goods and services.

Without investment partners, we cannot realize key infrastructure projects like the Mackenzie Valley Highway, Tlicho All-weather Road or the Slave Geological Province all-weather road, projects that would make doing business in the North more affordable. Our government continues to work with the Government of Canada to access infrastructure funding that has been committed by our Federal counterparts to build a strong and prosperous nation.

We need infrastructure investment to support and get many of our mining projects off the ground. 

Today’s Northwest Territories has what you need to build solid mineral projects – and to be confident in your investments.

We have the mineral supply to fuel the future of the international economy.  We have the political stability to ensure the security of your capital. And we have the widespread support necessary to grow and sustain projects.

We need the expertise, drive, and investment of people like you.  And we’re willing to partner to get it. We’re open for business.

I look forward to seeing and meeting with you North of 60. Thank you.