(Check against delivery)
Good afternoon, everyone, it is great to be here today.
Thank you to the NWT Chamber of Commerce for hosting such a superb event and for the invitation to participate. The Chamber continues to be a valuable contributor to our efforts to create a sustainable and prosperous mineral industry for our territory.
I am looking forwarding to Pierre Gratton’s presentation on behalf of the Mining Association of Canada and believe it will give us much food for thought.
Events like these are a great chance for us to come together, learn from one another and see how our collaborations can create a brighter future for everyone.
If you look at the Mining Association of Canada’s website, you will be pleased to see a strong northern presence. One page included the line that Canada’s North is regarded as the next frontier for mining growth and has promising mineral potential and opportunities for economic development. I certainly agree.
The direct benefits of mining account for over one-quarter of the NWT’s Gross Domestic Product, and we are seeking to develop the mining industry further. I know we’re all concerned that our economy is not growing like we want it to. Our resource-based economy is not immune to global fluctuations and as you all know we are feeling the direct effects of the downturn in the oil and gas sector.
There is potential, vast potential, throughout the Northwest Territories, including the areas not yet benefitting from the certainty that comes with a settled land claim. We continue to work to resolve outstanding land claims issues and to find ways to unlock our resources and develop our economy in these areas.
We are also working to increase certainty by making consistent balanced, predictable decisions about how land in the Northwest Territories is used. We are guided in this by the Land Use and Sustainability Framework, which was developed to clearly position our government’s thinking that the responsible use of our lands must take into account both economic interests and conservation values.
The intent of this framework, and our government’s approach, is to ensure that the economic value of our resources are realized in a responsible way, one which balances the interests of all of all of our stakeholders. We believe that conservation can coexist with development and that we can make land available for development in a way that successfully accommodates the interests and needs of the people and communities that we serve.
In contrast to what you may have heard in the media this week about the draft conservation areas action plan, we are not in a rush to make any final decisions affecting land available for development in the Northwest Territories. I have been talking to Minister Miltenberger about this and he has confirmed that his department will continue to take feedback from stakeholders on this draft document until October 19th, with further decisions to be made by the next government. Resource development continues to be at the heart of our economy and we are going to take the time we need to get this right for all our residents.
Let me assure you, this government and its partners, are working diligently to attract investment, increase efficiency and transparency in the regulatory process, and build a skilled and prosperous northern workforce.
The NWT Mineral Development Strategy was released in the fall of 2014 and outlined our plans and actions post-devolution. As we reach the one year mark since the release of that plan, I would like to highlight a few of the areas where we have made significant headway.
We are creating incentives for investment by prospectors and junior exploration companies through our Mining Incentive Program – which began as a pilot program and was renewed for a second year due to overwhelming interest. The Program, a recommendation of the Implementation Plan, has an annual budget of $400,000 and provides junior mining companies and prospectors with support to explore the NWT’s vast mineral potential. This Program will have long-term benefits as it builds a strong foundation of skilled prospectors and mining companies that are interested and invested in the NWT.
We are also fostering knowledge and interest in geology and prospecting at the community level through courses like Introduction to Prospecting which is sponsored by my department and a number of local partners.
The NWT Mining Industry Advisory Board, which was established in January, is an important piece to the future of our minerals industry. The formation of this Board also emerged from the Implementation Plan. Currently, the Board is served by six members who have direct experience in the NWT minerals industry, including representatives from Dominion Diamond Corporation, DEMCo Limited Partnership, Discovery Mining Services, Olivut Resources, Avalon Rare Metals and Canadian Zinc.
This industry-flanked volunteer Board will help to ensure that the territory is an attractive place to invest in mineral exploration and development. After the Board’s inaugural meeting, three clear priorities emerged: create a leading-edge Mineral Resources Act; create and implement a public awareness campaign; and promote the NWT as a destination for investment by the private sector. These priorities will help us to mould a resilient and long-standing mineral industry for our territory.
The Mineral Development Strategy also recommended creating a competitive edge through world-class geoscience information that is publicly available.
The $2.3 million Geological Materials Storage Facility that we are now establishing here in Yellowknife is reflective of the partnered approach that we are taking to advance work in this area. The facility will house drill core donated by industry, rock, stream sediment, lake sediment, and glacial till samples collected by government and industry, and historic reports and maps from mining properties and advanced exploration projects. The drill core collection alone is worth an estimated $30 million. A cold storage area will be complemented by a warm viewing area, allowing for year-round access to the collections.
The new facility is aimed at providing valuable information to prospectors and exploration companies – and contributes to greater investor confidence, lowered exploration costs and a reduced environmental footprint from exploration.
The newly-named NWT Geological Survey, a division of ITI, is the principal source of geoscience knowledge in the territory and involved in a number of important studies including a large field research program in the central Slave Geological Province. This research may help to stimulate the next round of diamond and metals exploration in this area as well as provide permafrost and ground temperature data to inform future infrastructure developments.
Ensuring this type of information is easily accessible by the public, researchers, industry, and investors are of the utmost importance. We’ve taken steps to address that issue. For example, in the last year, staffing capacity at the Geological Survey has increased and a new website has rolled out to accommodate this demand for information.
These are just a few of the activities that have taken place in the NWT over the last year and I look forward to sharing more updates with you in the future.
The Mining Association of Canada has a vision of a strong, responsible and globally competitive Canadian mining and mineral processing industry that creates wealth and opportunity for all Canadians. This is in line with our objective of a balanced approach – one that will provide opportunities to NWT businesses, employment to residents, and a boost to our economy while keeping environmental and social responsibilities in the forefront.
The importance of the mining industry in this territory cannot be underestimated. Currently, the NWT has no other industry that comes close to the value contributed by the mines. The work being done now in collaboration with partners, like the Mining Association of Canada, will help maintain industry momentum and secure it as the prosperous sector it has been for the better part of a century.