Northwest Territories is a land filled with vast mineral potential, rich in both resources and opportunity. Industry interest in this potential continues to rise and the Government of the Northwest Territories is actively working to ensure resource development is environmentally sustainable and benefits the residents, communities and businesses of the NWT.
Currently, four mines are operating in the NWT: Dominion Diamond Corp.’s Ekati Diamond Mine, Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond Mine, DeBeers’ Snap Lake Diamond Mine and North American Tungsten’s Cantung Mine. A fourth diamond mine, the Gahcho Kué Project spearheaded by DeBeers, is in the final stages of the permitting process. Gahcho Kué is the largest new diamond mine currently under development in the world.
In addition to diamonds, seven new mining projects are currently underway that include commodities such as precious metals, base metals and rare earth elements. Their development, along with that of the existing mines, contributed a staggering C$770 million in spending to the territorial economy last year. As current mines begin to mature, exploration and environmental work on these new mine projects has been positive and current mines are exploring options for extending mine life.
With devolution on the horizon, management of public lands, water and resources will fall to the Government of the Northwest Territories. This transfer of authority is a huge milestone for the territory and means that the NWT will take on new abilities to direct the economy of the territory and ensure that its residents benefit from development here. It also will mean access to new revenues and a new measure of fiscal independence that our government can use to invest in the people of this territory, the economy and the environment.
Existing mines continue to explore innovative ways to reduce both their power costs and their economic footprint. Diavik Diamond Mine currently runs a four-turbine wind farm, thereby reducing the need for diesel fuel needed to supply power to the entire operation – making diamond-mining operations greener. This wind farm is the first of its kind in the NWT, and its innovative design means a potential to develop future Northern wind-power projects.
With the release of the NWT Mineral Development Strategy this fall, we are taking steps to optimize our potential. This strategy will be accompanied by a clear plan of action that shows we are serious about addressing our investment challenges. It will provide a framework to ensure our mineral resources continue to be developed in a way that benefits NWT residents, ensures development is sustainable, and upholds our commitment to protect the environment.
Over the years, our economic growth has been closely tied to the mining sector – and there are no indications of that changing anytime soon. We are well-poised to capitalize on the potential within our territorial borders – and most importantly, bringing the benefits of that potential to our communities.
David Ramsay is minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment in the Government of the Northwest Territories. He was re-elected to a third term in October 2011 as MLA, representing the Kam Lake riding.