An underlying motto for Nunavut this year is “Creating a Resourceful Future,” a theme that can be interpreted as creating and building a future full of resources. Nunavut and its expansive geology are rich in many natural mineral resources such as gold, iron ore, base metals of lead and zinc, uranium and nickel to name a few. We have one operating mine, several properties that are potential mines under consideration, and several advanced exploration projects that are proceeding with development or feasibility work. These advanced properties could be mines within this decade.
Nunavut is open for business. There are still mineral discoveries to be made, the territory is underexplored and the geology is very prospective. We have the companies and the expertise to find more. This year we released the Government of Nunavut Uranium Policy, which is favorable to mining and development. We listened to, and heard, what people had to say in developing this policy. We did our homework to ensure that we will consider each proposed mining development on a case-by-case basis, and for the good of Nunavut and its citizens.
Typically, the mineral industry experiences “boom and bust” cycles with much volatility in the price for commodities. 2008 was a banner year world-wide followed by a year in 2009 of a global economic downturn and financial instability. Gold in 2011 reached all-time high values of over US$1,700 per ounce. For 2012, Nunavut’s mineral industry is predicting to spend approximately C$420 million on exploration expenditures. This level of spending ranks Nunavut again as fourth among Canada’s provinces and territories.
Nunavut’s mining opportunities have attracted and will continue to attract the attention of the major, global producers. This is a natural progression from exploration to production. However, we also recognize that Nunavut is in a global competition for mineral investment. It is desirable to attract major companies with the financial strength to build and develop large projects, but we also need to recognize that with this attraction is also the fact that these companies have other choices and options around the world.
In the now classic movie “Field of Dreams”, novice farmer Ray Kinsella was walking in his cornfield, hears a voice that whispers, "If you build it, he will come", and sees a vision of a baseball diamond. He builds the baseball diamond, with concerns, but is rewarded with his, and his late father’s, dream of people coming to see the final, winning game. We, in Nunavut, also have our own dream – that of Nunavut having an economy rooted in the wealth of our natural resources from mining. We have built a business and regulatory environment in Nunavut that will attract and foster a resourceful future.
As testament to this dream and its successes so far, many encouraging developments are happening. Agnico-Eagle’s Meadowbank gold mine has recently had encouraging drill results and record production. Six other projects in Nunavut are progressing well through the regulatory and environmental assessment processes. ArcelorMittal, the largest steel company in the world and the parent company of Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, is on its way to developing the high-grade Mary River massive iron ore deposits located on northern Baffin Island. It recently received the go-ahead from the territory’s environmental review board and now it is waiting the final decision from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. De Beers, the pre-eminent diamond producer in the world, is positioned to acquire a majority ownership in Peregrine Diamonds Ltd.’s Chidliak Diamond Project. This expansive diamond property continues to discover kimberlite; at least seven of the 61 pipes found to date have economic (tonnage) potential.
Cameco Corp.’s Aberdeen and Turqavik uranium deposits are returning significant high-grade results and this represents the first new important uranium discovery in the Thelon Basin. MMG Resources Inc. is advancing its Izok Corridor base metal deposits in western Nunavut. Sabina Gold & Silver Corp.’s Back River gold deposit, also in western Nunavut, continues to return encouraging drill results. The Meliadine gold project, Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.’s second gold property in central Nunavut, is intersecting significant gold values. The company is moving forward with plans for development in the next few years.
This year also brought some challenges and setbacks in the mining industry in Nunavut. Newmont, the second-largest gold producer in the world, announced early in 2012 that they were placing the Hope Bay gold project (western Nunavut) on hold and ‘care and maintenance’ as the company concentrates on other projects. Agnico-Eagle, the operators of the Meadowbank gold mine, also had to revise its operations plan and in February announced a partial write-down on the mine. The mine-life was shortened by three years, although recent drilling and production results have been very encouraging to potentially alter these modified plans.
We believe that Nunavut is a leading mineral investment destination in Canada and perhaps the world. We have worked hard to “Create a Resourceful Future.” We are working to “build it so they can continue to come.” And we believe this will happen.