With mineral output in the North expected to almost double over the next seven years, the GNWT announced details on its plans for moving forward with a comprehensive mineral development strategy last Monday in Vancouver.
“Mineral development is the backbone of the NWT economy, and developing a long-term plan will guide decision-making for mineral development into the future,” Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) Minister David Ramsay said during the 2013 Mineral Exploration Roundup conference on Jan. 28.
“Once complete, a Mineral Development Strategy will support our efforts to expand the nature and scope of our resource development and provide a framework to ensure our mineral resources continue to be developed in a way that benefits NWT residents, ensures development is sustainable and upholds our commitment to protect the environment.”
The GNWT slated $1-million in its 2012-2013 budget for this new strategy, a partnership between the government of the Northwest Territories and the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.
“The development of one, clear strategy will replace a number of policies that have been implemented over the years, making the entire development process easier to navigate. And with an updated strategy in place, areas that were not dealt with properly in past policies – including grassroots exploration and investment – can now be addressed,” Ramsay said.
Moving forward with the strategy, ITI has released an official discussion paper to engage the public and stakeholders in drafting a final plan.
A copy of the paper is now available on the department’s website.
“This paper is meant to get people thinking about mineral development in the NWT and identifies major areas of focus such as the Regulatory Process, Geoscience Requirements, Logistics and Infrastructure, Training and Education, Understanding Industry Needs, Addressing Social and Environmental Responsibility,” Ramsay said.
The minister also announced last Monday that a three-person advisory panel has been appointed to “facilitate the engagement and discussion” of the strategy.
Panel members will spend the next six weeks holding a series of public meetings in five communities including Inuvik, Norman Wells and Yellowknife, said Rod Brown, one of the appointed panelists.
Brown, the founder of Discovery Mining Services, was born and raised in Yellowknife.
Other panelists include Murray Duke of Kanata, Ontario, who worked with the Geological Survey of Canada for 18 years, and Angus Robertson of Courtenay, BC, who has a background in resource development, land claims negotiations and devolution negotiations during his time with the government of Yukon.
The panel is responsible for collecting feedback and will provide the GNWT with recommendations over the next four months while drafting the final strategy.
“Our purpose as a panel is just to get some input, advice, suggestions – see what the industry stakeholders, various Aboriginal and environmental groups are thinking and the general public,” Brown said.
Brown noted the “profound” importance mining has in the North.
NWT’s four producing mines and other projects at various stages of development generate $770 million annually in spending and employ more than 3,000 people, states the new discussion paper.
The Conference Board of Canada forecasts that, overall, Northern metal and non-metallic mineral output will grow by 91 per cent from 2011 to 2020, a compounded annual growth rate of 7.5 per cent. In contrast, the Canadian economy is forecasted to grow by an average of just 2.2 per cent annually over this same period.
The annual gross domestic product of mining in the North, which was $4.4 billion in 2011, is also expected to reach $8.5 billion in 2020, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
With this news forecasted and the territory’s current mines aging, it’s crucial to develop a mining strategy now more than ever, Brown said.
“I think the key thing is, with devolution now, we want to ensure that all NWT residents get maximum benefits from the various minerals found throughout the NWT.”
Brown has spent the last two decades working with “a lot of junior and mid-tier mining exploration companies” and seen the “level of exploration reduced significantly” over those years.
There is now a need to continue attracting investment in new mining projects. That’s where a mineral development strategy will come in handy, Brown said.
“It’s something we need to do and I’m encouraged by it. It’s a good opportunity to start a positive dialogue and take a responsible direction.”