Mr. Speaker, responsible mineral exploration and development strengthens our territorial economy and helps to provide each region with opportunities and choices.
Later today I will be tabling the Mineral Development Strategy Implementation Plan, which will put the recommendations made in the Mineral Development Strategy into place. The creation of an environmentally sustainable NWT Mineral Development Strategy was a key priority of the 17th Legislative Assembly and it establishes a comprehensive plan to ensure the long-term growth of a sustainable mining industry that will create jobs and economic opportunities for the people of the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, this implementation plan was a partnership effort and was developed in conjunction with the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. I also want to thank the Members of the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure for their input and guidance on the Mineral Development Strategy and the Implementation Plan.
The Implementation Plan puts the Strategy into action by establishing concrete goals, objectives and timelines, and ensures we make progress in the five key areas of importance outlined in the Mineral Development Strategy. These include growing a sustainable mining sector; encouraging responsible mineral development and exploration; improving geoscience information and research; enhancing Aboriginal capacity; and creating a mining incentive program.
Some of these actions have already been put in place or are underway. The Mining Incentive Program was launched this past June. It was overwhelmingly popular and was oversubscribed by 200 per cent in its very first year. This program aims to offset some of the financial risk associated with grassroots mineral exploration in the NWT, which we anticipate will result in increased investment in the territory and employment opportunities for residents.
The completion of the Implementation Plan is timely as we are seeing increased exploration activity in the NWT, with rejuvenated interest in diamonds. In addition, the Mining Recorders Office has received more than 300 new mineral claim applications since Devolution on April 1, and the majority of these claims are located around the existing diamond mines.
Mr. Speaker, the mining industry has been a pillar of the Northwest Territories’ economy for more than 80 years. In addition to being the largest private sector contributor to the NWT economy, the mining industry is also the largest private sector employer. The Mineral Development Strategy and Implementation Plan will help us to ensure the mining industry continues to be a key contributor to the NWT’s economic growth.
The Implementation Plan will continue to be evaluated and updated as we move forward, to ensure that actions remain relevant and effective, and we will continue to collaborate with our partners and work together to promote the NWT as an exciting place to work and invest.
Mr. Speaker, a key element of devolution was that this government would gain the tools to shape and direct the economic growth of the NWT. Capitalizing on our full potential takes the kind of strategic thought and planning that is reflected in the Mineral Development Strategy and Implementation Plan. I look forward to working with Members to advance the Implementation Plan and to achieve this Assembly’s vision of a prosperous territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.