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Mr. Speaker, last month I attended AME Roundup in Vancouver, where I had the privilege of representing Northwest Territories residents and advocating for their interests in the realm of resource development.
Roundup showcases the NWT’s resource potential to the world’s mineral development community. In recent years, we have seen growth in the exploration of key commodities, especially for critical minerals like lithium. This exploration presents the NWT with a unique and timely opportunity to increase investment in our mineral sector.
Mr. Speaker, I can report incredible buzz and excitement at Roundup for our territory’s potential, especially around critical minerals.
As a world, we are writing a new way forward to tomorrow’s renewable energy and clean technology solutions. 23 of the 31 Critical minerals essential to Canada’s Critical Mineral Strategy are found in our backyard. So, while this is a global challenge, the solutions are Canadian, and more specifically, this chapter starts in the NWT.
As we all recognize, the benefits of mining extend well beyond the extraction of precious stones and minerals. Even before a mine can start operating, a diverse range of products and services are required. Exploration activities and geoscience research can bring significant economic benefits.
Exploration activities benefit our economy by hiring locally. Although the employment opportunities at the exploration stage do not approach the scale of an operating mine, exploration companies employ a wide range of labourers. Let us not forget, before you can even start a mine and create hundreds of job opportunities, you first need enterprising and innovative mineral exploration companies to find and develop viable deposits.
Mr. Speaker, in 2023, exploration spending in our territory totalled $118.8 million, an 11 percent increase from 2022. The NWT was the only Northern jurisdiction to see an increase during this period, and growth is being driven by the search for critical minerals. We want this spending to increase to the levels seen in previous years, where it totalled between $150 and $200 million.
Our government's approach to this year's Roundup was strategic. We highlighted the immense potential for those engaging in responsible exploration and development within our territory and demonstrated how partnerships with Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations can unlock new opportunities.
In the spirit of environmental, social, and governance with an Indigenous lens, or ESG-I, we are promoting responsible resource development. Our government is dedicated to integrating ESG-I considerations into our policies and practices, ensuring that exploration and mining projects meet the highest environmental and social standards and will attract ESG-I-conscious investors.
During Roundup, the Government of the Northwest Territories, or GNWT, hosted networking talks focused on capacity-building and relationship development for Indigenous governments and NWT participants in the mineral development sector. We brought five events to Vancouver, including two ESG-I talks, a question-and-answer session on the Mineral Resources Act, a Meet the Leaders event that introduced our Premier, Cabinet, and Indigenous government leaders to national counterparts, and of course, NWT Night.
These events were well attended by influential industry stakeholders, government officials and, crucially, our Indigenous partners. Our contingent was also supported by the Member for Sahtu, and I am grateful for his presence and contributions at RoundUp.
Mr. Speaker, Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations also made a big splash at Roundup, over a dozen Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations were represented. Congratulations are especially in order for the Tłı̨chǫ Government, who hosted their inaugural Tłı̨chǫ Night. It was my personal pleasure to attend this successful event.
Mr. Speaker, Roundup was much more than simply an event; it was an opportunity to show how we are enhancing our investment landscape, and to build upon the partnerships to get us there. By nurturing these connections at venues like Roundup, we hope to see all Northerners share in the prosperity our resource economy brings to our territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.