Opening Statement to the Environmental Impact Review Panel – Gahcho Kue Project

Dec 5 2012

My name is Bob McLeod. I am Premier of the Northwest Territories.  

I will provide a brief summary of the Government of the Northwest Territories’ planned participation in this hearing process.

The Northwest Territories is a major diamond producer, accounting for 85% of Canada’s diamond production by value and 16% of the world’s diamond production. Diamond mining is the largest part of our economy, making 24% of our gross domestic product in 2011.  The people of the Northwest Territories have benefitted substantially from the jobs and income diamond mining has provided. Spending by the mines has benefitted Northern businesses and helped to create new economic opportunities.

We have been mining diamonds in the Northwest Territories for 14 years now. Our government understands the benefits of diamond mining and know how to manage the impacts. In our experience, mining companies have been good corporate citizens. They have entered into impact benefit agreements that help ensure our Aboriginal people enjoy the benefits of development on their traditional lands. They have also entered into socio-economic agreements and committed to work with government to cooperatively manage and mitigate potential social, economic and environmental impacts.

Our government has a vision of a prosperous, self-sufficient territory that provides opportunities for all our residents in their communities and regions.  We want a territory where people are healthy and educated and free from poverty and addictions.  We want a territory where Northerners make the decisions about the things that affect us.  We want a territory where our environment is protected and a strong economy gives us the financial resources we need to fund programs and services, look after our land and provide for our residents. 

Diamond mining is a critical part of achieving that vision. We are a resource-rich jurisdiction and our social and economic development depends on the responsible development of those resources.  But we are not interested in development at any cost.  Development must be managed properly to make sure that our people enjoy its benefits and we are able to manage and mitigate potentially negative impacts.

We have adopted the principles of sustainable development to guide decisions and actions related to resource use.  These principles are clearly outlined in our Sustainable Development Policy and ensure that our equal interest in conservation and economic development are always considered.

People of the Northwest Territories expect their government to protect their interests and ensure the Gahcho Kue project benefits Northerners.  Our role in these hearings is to advance the public interest of our residents.

The Gahcho Kue Project is important to the long-term strategic interests of the Northwest Territories, to the continued strength of our economy and the wellbeing of our people and communities.

The Government of the Northwest Territories maintains its qualified support for the Gahcho Kue Project based upon the information currently available. 

We are encouraged by the open and extensive discussions undertaken with De Beers and their follow-up to these discussions with detailed commitments.  These include the commitment to complete a Socio-economic Agreement as a follow-up program and Memoranda of Understanding for Wildlife and Air to establish and track follow-up programs in these areas.

We are also encouraged by the Developer’s willingness to work with the Aboriginal Parties to this Environmental Assessment to find an effective forum for the environmental stewardship of the Gahcho Kue Project.

Our past experience with diamond mining gives the government confidence that the Gahcho Kue project can be managed in a way that creates benefits for our economy and residents. We will continue to work with the developer to make sure that happens and we will continue to represent the interests of Northwest Territories residents as full and active participants in this review process. 

The Government of the Northwest Territories will be making presentations on wildlife management, socio-economic and cultural impacts and air quality emissions. Staff making presentations include:

  • Gavin More, Manager, Environmental Assessment and Monitoring, Department of Environment and Natural Resources;
  • Kelly Kaylo, Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment;
  • Aileen Stevens, Air Quality Programs Coordinator, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and
  • Nicole McCutchen, Manager, Wildlife Research and Management, Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Other Government of the Northwest Territories representatives available for questions and answers will be:

  •  Janet Grinsted, Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Education, Culture and Employment
  • Rita Mueller, Chief Executive Officer, Tlicho Community Services Agency

We fully expect the outstanding issues raised by our Government and other Parties will be resolved during the hearing process as the Developer provides further information and makes additional commitments.

We are confident any remaining issues will be addressed by the Panel in its final report to the federal and responsible ministers.

We look forward to participating in this process.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.