Mineral Development Strategy Kickoff Event – Minister David Ramsay’s speech
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, I would like to thank you for joining us here today at the kick-off of our work on the NWT Mineral Development Strategy.
It is interesting that the theme of the 2013 Mineral Exploration Roundup is “Resources for Life: Digging Deeper”. Interesting, because that is exactly why we are here today – to kick off a Mineral Development Strategy that will ensure we dig deep and continue to have resources now – and resources for life.
There is enormous potential just waiting to be tapped in the Northwest Territories – diamonds, gold, and rare earths – just to name a few. We recognize – and I’m sure you do as well – that there is enormous potential for investment companies to make a profit from these resources. Given the enormous potential of diamonds and other minerals, the mining sector will continue to be a key contributor to ongoing economic growth in the Northwest Territories.
However, attracting investment that eventually turns that potential into producing mines has been a challenge. I have heard concerns from industry regarding long and often complicated regulatory processes, as well as challenges related to unsettled Aboriginal land claims. A lack of local control, layers of bureaucracy and a complicated regulatory process are mentioned as factors that further complicate corporate investment decisions.
We want to change that. And we will. We are here today with our partners from the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines to tell you about the Mineral Development Strategy that will guide the future of mining in the NWT.
Mineral development is the backbone of the economy in the NWT. Currently, our four producing mines contribute $770 million in spending every year and employ more than 3,000 people.
In working to develop a Mineral Development Strategy for the Northwest Territories, the GNWT has recognized that the most important stakeholders are those that work in the mineral development sector on an everyday basis – and we have partnered with the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines to make sure that this Strategy covers all the bases and that essential stakeholders – such as potential investors, mineral development companies, and local residents – have the opportunity to provide input to the Strategy’s development.
In the past, we have been operating without a comprehensive plan in place to get the most out of our mineral resources.
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 grass roots exploration and investment – can now be addressed.
The timing is right as the Strategy will coincide with our final Devolution Agreement now being finalized with the Federal Government.
Currently, decisions related to land use and resources in the NWT are made in Ottawa, by the Federal Government. The lack of local control adds layers of bureaucracy and limits the NWT’s response to industry needs. We expect to have a final Devolution Agreement in place within the next six months, and this will be perfect timing for the completed Mineral Development Strategy.
With devolution in place, we will make decisions related to our lands and resources, and can work with residents on how these things directly affect the lives of our residents.
But what Devolution will also bring is the ability to better serve potential investors, and those already operating in the territory. With final decision-making power on regulatory processes and responsibilities locally based, we will be able to respond faster to industry needs.
As a starting point in the Mineral Development Strategy’s advancement, we have drafted a Discussion Paper. 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 Responsibilities – and more.
I have copies with me here today and would encourage you to look through it and give us your feedback.
To help guide the Mineral Development Strategy, I have appointed a panel of experts who will engage with stakeholders and provide input on the final plan. I would like to introduce them now.
Angus Robertson has an extensive background in the public service at both the federal and provincial/territorial level. In addition to his extensive background in resource development, Mr. Robertson also brings to the table experience in working in land claims negotiations and also in Devolution negotiations during his time with the Government of Yukon.
Murray Duke worked with the Geological Survey of Canada for 18 years, and spent the majority of his career focusing on geological mapping, mineral resources, exploration technology, environmental geoscience and natural hazards – just to name a few areas. Since his retirement from the public service, Mr. Duke has worked with the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada on a major review of public policy rationale for public geoscience, as well as consulting projects for the Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources, the NWT Geosciences Office, and Natural Resources Canada.
Rod Bown was born and raised in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and has spent his entire working life as a leader in the mineral development service industry. Mr. Brown brings to the table a vast knowledge and understanding of the role of junior and senior exploration companies, the relationship that exists between junior and senior exploration companies, and the need for both in the NWT.
Cathie Bolstad is also with us today, representing our partner in this endeavour. She is the president of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines and is also the director of external and corporate communications with DeBeers Canada based in Yellowknife. Ms. Bolstad also brings a wealth of experience of living and working in the Canadian North, having worked in the communications field in a number of businesses.
I would like to invite Ms. Bolstad to come up and speak to you about the Chamber’s perspective on the partnership and role in making this a reality.
Today’s event marks our commitment to involve a broad spectrum of people across the North and the rest of Canada that have a vested interest in mineral development in the NWT.
As I mentioned, we have a Discussion Paper to get people thinking about NWT mineral development. This has been sent to our stakeholders throughout the territory. We are also planning engagement meetings with key players to collect their perspectives on challenges and solutions as we work to develop this strategy further.
This level of consultation will ensure we have a comprehensive strategy. Our goal is to complete the Mineral Development Strategy by June 2013.
As I mentioned, I would encourage those of you in this room today to review the Discussion paper. Don’t hesitate to talk to me about it here today, or send your comments on what we are proposing to my staff. Only with the knowledge and perspective from a wide range of people within the mineral development industry and beyond can we develop the kind of strategy that will benefit everyone.
I welcome the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with the people who are helping us to develop Canada’s Northwest Territories through investments in our wealth of mineral resources.
I have already introduced the panel, so please take an opportunity to speak with them and give your ideas. As well, Mr. Tim Coleman, the Director of Minerals Oil and Gas for the Department who is here with me today, and Mr. Allan Twissel of Northways Consulting, is our lead consultant assisting us with this important work.
Mining has a long history in the Northwest Territories. But history is just that – in the past and gone. What this Mineral Development Strategy will do now is ensure there is a sustainable mining future for the Northwest Territories.
Let me close by saying that we are working to make the Northwest Territories a mining destination of choice. We are committed to work together, and with industry, to address the issues impacting our regulatory environment and make it a place you want to do business.