Wally Schumann: AME Roundup Conference - Panel Discussion

Thank you. I’m pleased to be back at AME Roundup and share the perspectives of the NWT as part of this important discussion.

Many of you are likely aware that the NWT is itself the third-largest producer of diamonds by value in the world, but I would like to take a moment to talk about our industry as a whole.

The NWT has massive mineral potential and vast swaths of unexplored land across our 1.3 million square kilometres of the Canadian Shield.

Development is currently dominated by diamonds. With three operating mines, our mines contribute roughly $1 billion to our economy each year.

Exploration has undeniably been challenged by the difficult market conditions the wider industry has experienced over the past few years.

However, it is on the rise — we’ve seen our best staking year in some time, and projects like TerraX’s Yellowknife City Gold project and Nighthawk’s Colomac Project continue to gain steam.

Recently, the NWT has become a hotbed of talk around strategic minerals like lithium, cobalt, and rare earth elements — with new exploration projects ramping up and established projects being re-evaluated for these minerals of the future.

Our government is doing our part to work towards a more competitive future for investors and explorers interested in our territory.

We are addressing the need for a modern, clear, competitive legislative regime reflecting the realities of doing business in the North as we develop our first home-grown Mineral Resources Act.

Just this week we will release the report of our public engagement including a high-level look at where we’re headed with the new legislation.

We’ve doubled-down our support for early-explorers by upping our direct investment in NWT exploration to $1 million annually through the Mining Incentive Program.

And we’ve invested in geoscience to make new information available on our vast and varied landscape.

This includes reports on the geochemistry of the Slave Geological Province — considered to be one of the highest-potential regions in Canada and new gold and tungsten data that is being released this week

Given that our territory is so large, and our tax base so small, there are certain projects we need partners to see through.

While we can, and do, take leadership on bringing important projects to fruition, we see a role for the federal government to step in and work with us to get nation-building projects done.

Canada needs need a solid vision for strategically investing in the North in order to support economic development and this includes infrastructure.

In that vision, Canada needs to recognize the foundation of our economy is resource development. Our natural resources are not only the key to growing and sustaining our economic future but are essential to lowering the cost of living, to developing training, educational and capacity building opportunities. The broader development of our resources will contribute to the GDP not just of the NWT, but also to neighbouring jurisdictions, and to all of Canada.

The infrastructure that supports transportation has always been crucial to Northerners, to enable us to grow and develop our economy. Never has the role that transportation plays been more important than it is today, to support our hopes and plans for future growth and prosperity.

We want to develop the North to have the same benefits as Southern Canada, and our partners in this room will benefit from our prosperity and development. A strong Northern economy benefits Western Canada more than anyone – if we flourish, you flourish.

Meaningful investment in transportation infrastructure would unleash the potential of the North to contribute to Canada’s wealth, and the time is now to do so, to help us build the Nation.

We are actively seeking Federal funding for two key projects that will complete the integration of Canada to the arctic:  continued development of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, and funding to start building a highway through the Slave Geological Province, ultimately linking to Grays Bay in Nunavut and the Arctic Circle.

Construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway will provide reliable access to mineral deposits and a wealth of petroleum reserves located in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories.

The Slave Geological Province Access Corridor is a transformative, revenue-generating project that will reduce operating costs for industry by providing reliable access into a region that holds vast untapped mineral resources.

The expansion of the Territory’s Taltson hydro system will support development of a green energy corridor, to transport clean, renewable electrical energy between the Northwest Territories and the national electrical grid.

As resource industries re-emerge and advance in the North, the opportunities that are now presented for the businesses of Western Canada to use this reliable trade route to increase trade with new developments in Arctic North America cannot be overstated.

We want to re-establish the traditional trade corridors that have existed for centuries, and modernize them in a way that will benefit Western Canada and the nation as a whole.

Transformative investment in Canada’s North by the Federal government in partnership with our government and our Indigenous partners will strengthen Canada’s position internationally, and help it become a leader in the circumpolar world.

I am proud to say that our territory has taken leadership in the area of Indigenous participation.  And with Devolution just three years ago, it has enabled us to progress even further. I believe that our government’s relationships with Indigenous governments are a strength that many Canadians don’t know much about.

To me, it comes down to approaching the relationship with respect for the positions of others at the table, recognition of the history that led us here, and understanding the responsibility to consider the unique needs of Indigenous governments and their constituents.

By fostering that degree of collaboration amongst public and Indigenous governments, and the private sector, I believe there are many opportunities to foster Indigenous participation in the mining sector.

Our commitment to ensuring NWT Indigenous people share in the benefits of development in the NWT is reflected in the agreement our government signed with our Indigenous government partners at the time of devolution to share up to 25 percent of revenues from the development of resources on public lands.

Settled land claims give Indigenous governments the land and financial resources necessary for economic development. Indigenous people in the NWT are at the table, making decisions for themselves and the territory every day, and this approach is a model for the rest of Canada to look upon to find success as they move towards improving relationships with their Indigenous communities.

In addition the NWT has a unique co-management arms-length regulatory system that with our Indigneous partners.

From Indigenous development corporations whose companies now service our world-class mines, to the negotiating table where Indigenous governments have a say on how land and natural resources are managed, there is participation at every level. Our territory has a body called the Intergovernmental Council, which consists of seven Indigenous governments who work closely with our public government on issues of land and resources.

This includes a resource revenue sharing agreement.

You’ll notice that officials from these seven Indigenous governments have joined our team here at Roundup to provide a united front in support of responsible exploration and development.

This is just one example of what can happen when you take this approach.

We call it the NWT difference that is setting us apart from competing jurisdictions and earning us recognition on the international stage. It’s a holistic approach to mineral exploration and development, and we’re proud of it.

These opportunities for discussion and sharing ideas are important. I look forward to hearing what others around the table have to say.