Commentary: Northwest Territories, a multi-faceted mining destination

A haul truck receives a load at Mountain Province Diamonds' Gahcho Ku diamond project in the Northwest Territories. Source: Mountain Province DiamondsA haul truck receives a load at Mountain Province Diamonds' Gahcho Ku diamond project in the Northwest Territories. Credit: Mountain Province Diamonds.

As Minister of Industry Tourism and Investment for the Government of the Northwest Territories, one of my jobs is to champion resource development for our unique place in Canada’s North.

At events, conferences and meetings, I tell people about our rich mineral resources; I talk about what we’re doing as a government to support exploration; I highlight what northern resource and infrastructure development can do for all of Canada.

But mostly I talk about our northern and Indigenous peoples, their business community and how we are working together to realize sustainable mineral development in our territory.

Wally Schumann

Wally Schumann, Minister, Industry, Tourism and Investment of the Government of Northwest Territories

Today’s investors and developers want to invest where their shareholders can feel good about their investments — where their dollars are having a positive social effect as well as a good return on investment.

They’re looking to hire trained local workforces and contract knowledgeable local businesses and service providers that can drive and empower their towns and communities while getting the job done.

In the Northwest Territories, we have a history of fostering this kind of environment.

It’s how we do business.

To truly understand our unique edge on mineral exploration and development, you need to know two things.

First, the NWT has an extraordinary wealth of mineral resources.

We’re more than diamonds.  We are seeing a resurgence of interest in the gold and base metals that established our territory.

Perhaps most exciting, we have the mineral resources needed to power the green economy of the future.  

As the federal government’s vision to position Canada as a global centre for innovation takes root, attention is growing to the NWT’s emerging store of technology minerals like lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements.

The second thing you to need to know is: northerners support mining.

In a 2016 survey, 86% of NWT residents said they believe a strong mining sector is vital to the long-term health of the NWT. What’s more, 82% want to see more mining projects in the NWT.

NWT residents and businesses support mining and recognize the importance and benefits it brings to communities and the NWT economy.

Indigenous governments in our territory also have a vested interest, many with settled modern land-claim agreements. They share in the resource royalties paid by our mines and are part of our co-management regulatory system.

There is a defined structure through which our government works with Indigenous governments and communities, and a clear path to communication and negotiation for industry stakeholders.

Our government is also supportive. Our Mineral Development Strategy represents a commitment: that the NWT is serious about addressing our investment challenges and unlocking the mineral potential of our territory.

We are preparing to introduce new mineral resource legislation to address the need for modern, clear and competitive legislation — and a regulatory framework that responds to the needs of the NWT and its investment partners.

We’re also making new and relevant geoscience publicly available.  This includes reports on the geochemistry of the Slave Geological Province — one of the highest-potential mineral regions in Canada.

We’re building, nurturing and maturing a local workforce and service sector to meet the needs of industry and our investment partners and providing financial incentives to prospectors and exploration companies carrying out mineral exploration in our territory.

And, we’re investing heavily, in collaboration with the Government of Canada, to improve transportation infrastructure that will increase access to the mineral-rich regions of our territory.

Our efforts have created a unique approach to mineral exploration and development in the NWT. Our approach is built on partnerships with the industry stakeholders and the Indigenous governments that make up our territory.

It is built on mutual respect and the recognition that each of us can contribute to the success of the other two to maximize benefits.

Through socio-economic agreements established by our government with producing mining companies and 25 years of working together, we have built an ecosystem of well-trained local workers and mine service companies proven to keep world-class mines on track.

Our model has pushed us to the forefront of Indigenous participation in mining, exploration and development.

Our Indigenous governments own and operate the companies that service the mines, creating a robust Indigenous business community. They own construction, logistics and transportation companies.

Collectively, our mines and the northern and Indigenously owned businesses that empower them provide thousands of jobs to northerners.

And our people are doing more than taking on labour jobs.

They are seeing a real and tangible reason to stay in school and seek higher learning.  Many are returning home in mining-related fields like engineering and geosciences.

Mining is allowing our people to take control of their future.  It is empowering and shaping Indigenous governments, businesses and communities.

That’s the NWT difference.

And why should it matter to you? Because it means that we have laid the groundwork. Our governments, businesses and residents want to work with you as much as we do.

You can invest in extracting resources anywhere. But if you want to do it with security in a territory where your investment will empower a people and inspire a future… the Northwest Territories awaits.

Wally Schumann is Minister, Industry, Tourism and Investment of the Government of Northwest Territories. To learn more about the NWT government, visit www.gov.nt.ca.

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