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Trade show offers preview of mineral exploration spending
Newmont budgeting about $300 million for Hope Bay gold project this year

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 18, 2011

IKALUKTUTIAK/CAMBRIDGE BAY - One mining company's recent announcement at the 2011 Kitikmeot Trade Show in Cambridge Bay suggests overall mineral exploration spending in Nunavut will increase substantially this year.

NNSL photo/graphic

Wilf Wilcox, owner of Jago Services, accepts the Willie Laserich Memorial Corporate Citizen Award. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

Newmont Mining Corporation said it will spend approximately $300 million in 2011 to develop the Hope Bay gold project south of Cambridge Bay.

That's more than the combined spending of all companies exploring for minerals in Nunavut last year, which totalled $280 million, and it suggest spending could go back to pre-recession levels ($432 million in 2008).

As Jerry Clyne, Newmont's Hope Bay business manager, told attendees of the trade show, Inuit-owned companies in the Kitikmeot region stand to see a good piece of Newmont's investment.

"Suffice to say, an Inuit-based contractor could have prices up to about 25 per cent higher than a southern-based contractor and still win the contract," said Clyne.

In the last three years, Newmont has spent $168 million with Kitikmeot Corporation the economic development arm of the Kitikmeot Corporation and other Kitikmeot-based companies.

"We think that's significant, (but) we think we can improve on this," said Clyne.

The Kitikmeot region is currently a hotbed of mineral exploration activity that has the potential to create benefits on the order of the NWT's three diamond mines, said Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of mines.

"Diamonds have done an awful lot for the Northwest Territories," he said. "I think what we're sort of on the edge of here in the Kitikmeot is something similarly as large."

In addition to Newmont, companies like Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation, Shear Minerals and MMG Resources all of whom sent representatives to the trade show are exploring for gold, diamonds and base metals near other Kitikmeot communities, such as Kugluktuk.

It's an embarrassment of riches, but the territory will need to ensure that already understaffed Nunavut regulators have the manpower to handle all those project assessments, said Hoefer.

"What you have ... is a whole bunch of projects moving forward, some of them quite simultaneously ... This is going to be a big challenge for this region..." he said. "We need to build capacity on the regulatory side."

Companies also need to get together to discuss their respective projects to see if a collaborative approach to development can be reached, added Hoefer.

"We need a partnership like this (that includes) senior-level representation. We can't just have little folks that can't make decisions at this table. It's going to have to be all of the top dogs from all of those places."

Trade show exhibitors and delegates numbered 50 and 200, respectively about on par with last year, said Brenda Mercer, co-organizer of this year's event.

New exhibitors included Monster Recreational Products of Hay River and Pamela Strand, president and CEO of Shear Minerals. The latter company is seeking to reopen the Jericho Diamond Mine, which closed in 2008 after only two years of operation..

Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq, who grew up in Gjoa Haven and Taloyoak, was on hand to address guests at the trade show icebreaker.

"This year there's a lot more faces that I have not seen before and usually I can tell the newcomers because they're always the ones that are wearing suits and ties, but I don't see anyone wearing that this evening, so you're well adjusted to the Northern trade shows."

Two-time women's hockey gold medallist Carla McLeod proved popular among Cambridge Bay residents and trade show participants alike, drawing throngs of admirers who jumped at the chance to touch her gold medals.

"You guys have applauded me six times already, so this is getting embarrassing," beamed McLeod.

The Olympian, brought to town by RBC Royal Bank manager Chris Chapman, taught a children's hockey camp, gave out chocolate medals and spoke to students of Nunavut Arctic College's human services program as well as some hockey moms about the challenge of keeping kids motivated.

Cambridge Bay resident Wilf Wilcox, who began as a plumber but grew to offer other trades services to the community under his company Jago Services, won the Willie Laserich Memorial Corporate Citizen Award.

"He has fought hard to see that jobs come to the region," said mayor Syd Glawson of Wilcox.

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