Caroline Wawzonek: Critical Minerals Workshop November 2021

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — November 10, 2021

Check against delivery 

Welcome and thank you for participating in this workshop. 

I believe the NWT has an opportunity to play not only a leading role but a key role in the supply of critical minerals and metals to meet growing international demand.

The Government of Canada has identified 31 minerals that it believes will position Canada as a leading supplier of critical minerals, many of which are essential for building a greener economy as well as for use in biomedical equipment and other high tech sectors. These minerals are considered critical for the sustainable economic success of Canada and will help to maintain our position as a leading mining nation.

Almost half of these minerals can be found in the NWT.  And while there is still work to do to fully define the scope of our potential, several critical mineral projects have been identified, and are in the advanced stages of development.

As countries around the world move to secure and develop supplies of critical and strategic minerals, doors are opening for projects like Nechalacho and others to fill the demand.

Today marks an important opportunity for us to begin work towards a strategy that will enable the NWT to achieve a key place on the supply chain for critical minerals and metals not only because of our incredibly promising geology, but because we also have such potential to provide high return on Environmental, Social and Governance factors, or ESG.

That said, this is also happening at a time where COVID-19 has negatively impacted global economies and where the competition for investment is fierce. We want to get the message out not only about the geological potential of the NWT, and our commitments to ESG but, also, our place as a partner to other Canadian jurisdictions who may find themselves elsewhere along the mineral supply chain.

The timing of this workshop is no coincidence. This is the time of year, especially in the North, when the mining industry takes stock of results from its summer field activities and starts to look and plan ahead. It is an opportunity to consider how we can continue to generate awareness, interest and excitement for resource exploration and investment in the NWT.

All of you and your organizations have received an invitation to be here because we believe that you have something valuable to contribute to today’s discussion. For example, we must walk the talk of having high ESG value by continuing to engage broadly with the rights holders in the Territory about their perspectives and interest in these opportunities. We also need to draw on the knowledge of stakeholders and subject matter experts in order to in fact be at the forefront of what is happening in this sector.

Already there are projects that have moved beyond exploration to an advanced stage of development. And among both these and other proponents across the mineral resource sector of the NWT we see companies actively engaging with Indigenous governments and Indigenous businesses not only because they are asked to do so under socio-economic agreements, but because they understand the value of doing so. For example, some of the mineral resource companies operating in the NWT are already committing to net zero emissions mining by 2030; also, some are actively engaged in opportunities to create legacy projects from their presence in the NWT that will be remembered for their positive and lasting impact on people and communities.

I know that the future challenges that could limit the growth, or strength, of the mineral resource sector of the NWT are not insignificant. We are well aware that the NWT faces infrastructure deficits. Those are difficult challenges but we are actively facing them with three major projects all being advanced as part of the mandate of the 19th Assembly. As well, the NWT is in the process of implementing a new Mineral Resources Act and a new Public Lands Act – with the expectation that these will help modernize our regulatory systems and bring greater certainty and clarity to the sector.

We want to be prepared to take advantage of favourable commodity markets generally, investment capital in search of quality projects, the growing focus on Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) standards, geopolitical factors and – obviously, the growing demand for a reliable supply of critical minerals that we now know our territory can provide.   That is why we have asked each of you to join us today.

We are hoping that this workshop will first and foremost, contribute to a Critical Minerals Action Plan for the NWT. We also want to work towards a better understanding among NWT leaders, residents, business and industry stakeholders as to the role critical minerals and metals can play in the future resource development of our territory; and to identify how and where these commodities will fit into a renewed Mineral Development Strategy for our territory.

At an idealistic level, you are here today for nothing less than a conversation about the future of our economy, and the place of the mineral resource sector within in.

I want to thank each of you for the role you will play in helping us to craft this vision for the near future, and I look forward to continuing collaboration with you on the path ahead.