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Mineral exploration to increase in Nunavut, slide in NWTWe are missing a huge opportunity: chamber of mines
Northern News Services
Published Friday, March 11, 2011
The forecast predicts $83 million in spending on exploration activities in the NWT this year, down from $99 million in 2010.
Meanwhile, exploration spending in Nunavut is expected to increase to $322 million from $280 million over the same time period.
The downturn in the Western Arctic has the executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines worried.
"NWT residents and leaders should be concerned with the languishing exploration here," said Tom Hoefer. "We are missing a huge opportunity to strengthen our mining future by allowing investment to pass us by."
Unfortunately, Hoefer said the odds are currently stacked against the territory.
"The regulatory process in the NWT is complex, there are unsettled land claims and the NWT has more protected areas than anywhere else in Canada."
On Thursday, the legislative assembly tabled the revised Wildlife Act which proposes to transform a large swath of land near the Ekati diamond mine into a conservation area
Hoefer said the territory needs to do a better job of settling land claims and balancing environmental stewardship with economic development – things he said Nunavut is doing well.
"One of the differences is that Nunavut is a single land claim jurisdiction while the NWT has seven land claims. So they don't have the same level of board complexity."
Ann Marie Tout, president of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Hoefer's sentiments.
"It's really disappointing that our exploration goes down while the other territories are going up," said Tout.
She said it's important for the NWT to simplify the regulatory process in order to attract more mineral exploration in the territory.
"We can't say we are open for business and then make the process this hard," said Tout. "We've been lobbying for improvements to the regulatory process to simplify it and add more clarity. We need to increase confidence about mineral exploration in the NWT."
Peter Vician, deputy minister of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, had a comparatively sunnier outlook.
"Early predictions tend to be lower than what the actual is," said Vician.
As he pointed out, NRCan's preliminary estimate for NWT spending in 2010 was $66 million, but as the year went by, spending ultimately came in at $99 million.
The NWT has also come a long way since the height of the recession, which caused spending in the NWT to plummet to $44 million in 2009, said Vician.
"I think that industry is slowly rebounding since the downturn period and we feel positive that the measures that we're advancing are going to bring more confidence to the industry for the future," he said.
Vician cited the federal government's ongoing streamlining of the NWT's regulatory process as well as a recent push for devolution by the GNWT as reasons for optimism.