NWT Chamber of Mines
March 16, 2000
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you today. We
share common interests and a common vision. We at the Chamber of
Mines see a north which is self sustaining and free to chart its
own political course. The NWT Chamber of Mines believes that the
mineral industry, and our sister industry, oil & gas, have a
key role to play in realizing that vision. Unfortunately, the place
of the resource sector in the future of our territory is being overlooked
by the general public and the policy makers. I am not here to place
the blame for this state of affairs, the fault rests with all of
us: the industry, government, policy makers and opinion shapers,
and yes, even our schools.
Ask your kids
tonight what they think of the mining industry. If their parents
or sibling don't work in the mining business, I'll tell you mostly
what you'll hear:
dirty business. It tears up the land and leaves a mess behind."
"Mines are always in conflict over the land claimed by aboriginal
I know, I've
heard most of this around my own breakfast table.
What kids and
adults aren't hearing today is that mining has played a key role
in the development of the north, and in fact, most of Canada. Minerals
are why most of the non aboriginal residents of the Northwest Territories
came here. We hope to continue the tradition of providing opportunities
and jobs for northerners.
The radium and
uranium mines on Great Bear Lake started the influx of southerners
in the 1930s. The discovery of gold in the Yellowknife area in the
1940s began the formation of the city. Pine Point, south of Great
Slave Lake, in the 1960s, Nanisivik in the 1970s, Polaris and Lupin
in the 1980s have all played a key role in the north's development.
The mines on
Great Bear Lake and the oil wells at Norman Wells led to the development
of the barge system on the Mackenzie River. The highway system,
what there is of it, was developed to assist mineral or oil and
gas projects. The NWT's only railway was built to allow Pine Point
to ship its lead and zinc concentrates south. The Talston hydro
project was undertaken to power Pine Point. Special ice breaking
cargo ships were developed to service Nanisivik and later, Polaris..
The port at Nanisivik is used as a transfer point for community
resupply in the high arctic.
All of this
infrastructure remains, even after some of the mines have closed,
to serve the communities of the north. Communities as far away as
Aklavik and Gjoa Haven still benefit from a combination of the rail
and barge routes. The Mackenzie River stands ready to serve as a
major new route for exports should markets ever be developed in
Russia. The Talston dam continues to provide power to the communities
south of Great Slave Lake.
mines at Great Bear Lake and the gold mine at Lupin provided the
impetus to develop the network of winter ice roads which continue
to serve our mines. The techniques learned have been also been applied
to roads which provide all important re supply to isolated northern
These are some
of the unsung and unseen benefits of mining. Our communities, if
they were here at all, would look quite different without the mineral
what we are more likely to hear or read today is that our industry
is in some land conflict with an aboriginal group. Something I want
to say very clearly is that our industry and the NWT Chamber of
Mines fully supports and encourages the early and fair settlement
of land claims. We have been on record as supporting claims for
many years. Unfortunately, this doesn't get reported very accurately,
particularly in the southern press.
In fact, the
Chamber has been proactive in initiating efforts to involve northern
aboriginal peoples more fully in our industry. The Chamber has played
a key role in the Mine Training Committee. This is a partnership
of aboriginal groups, mining and exploration companies and educators
that advises the Minister of Education on the design and delivery
of training programs to allow aboriginal northerners to get ready
to take advantage of job opportunities in mining. We believe that
we have been very successful in targeting training to real job opportunities.
along with aboriginal business partners, have been working for some
time on a proposal to encourage more participation in the industry
by aboriginal development corporations. Our partners include aboriginal
development corporations from both the NWT and Nunavut.
We are proud
to say that our Board of Directors has included Darrel Beaulieu
for the past two years. Darrell is a former Chief of the Yellowknives
Dene and is now the President of the Band's development arm, the
Deton 'Cho Corporation. We see this as a signal of where we are
and where we are going. Our business is everyone's business. Many
non aboriginal and a few aboriginal northerners grew up in the mining
business. We are actively encouraging more aboriginal northerners
to become part of our industry.
of information you don't hear much is that mining companies have
played a key role in funding the West Kitikmeot/Slave Study Society.
This partnership of governments, aboriginal groups and the mining
industry has been engaged in gathering basic baseline environmental
data on the Slave Province. Mining companies have provided millions
of dollars towards this initiative. This is in addition to the millions
already spent by companies to do environmental and archaeological
studies on their projects. Some of you might be surprised to learn
that one company has a full time archaeologist on staff.
We believe that
our industry has changed and continues to change with the times.
We are concerned about the environment and want our environmental
regulations to be the best in the world. Unfortunately what we hear
in the media is that our industry cannot be trusted because of the
Giant Mine legacy. Giant was built over 50 years ago, in accordance
with the regulations, or lack of them, of the day. All through its
history Giant operated in compliance with government permits. Surely,
regulators and society as a whole must shoulder some of the blame
for past mistakes. We in industry are tired of being blamed for
all the ills of the past.
We must remember
that another part of Giant's legacy is two or three generations
of Yellowknifers who were gainfully employed at full time, well
paid jobs. Yellowknife would not be here without Giant, it's that
simple. In addition to the jobs and business opportunities provided
by Giant, this mine and its employees paid corporate and income
taxes, property taxes and royalties for over fifty years. We believe
that the balance sheet is in favour of the mine even if it looks
like we are now faced with a large bill for clean up.
as we know it won't be here for our next generations if we do not
speak out for an industry which has an image problem. Various policy
makers and legislators know what my letter will say as soon as they
read my letterhead, so I'm asking for your help as community leaders
You need to
tell our schools to teach a balanced curriculum about development
vs. conservation. Our kids have to grow up with a realistic view
of the world and man's place in it. They need to know where the
things they use every day come from: If you can't grow it or hunt
it, you, have to mine it.
You need to
tell our educators that there are real, lifetime opportunities to
be had in the mineral industry. Kids need to know that trades and
technical jobs are honourable and rewarding ways to earn a living.
You need to
tell our territorial government to provide a business friendly atmosphere
which encourages investment. Mining, the north's number one industry,
must no longer be used as a whipping boy by the territorial government
in its quest for devolution of mineral responsibility from the federal
government. The GNWT needs to provide a policy framework and tax
regime which allows industry to pay its fair share of taxes but
which clearly identifies the government's responsibility to deliver
social programs. It simply does not make sense for each mining project
to have to reinvent the wheel and individually negotiate terms for
training, job and business opportunities. Tell us what the rules
are, write them down and stick to them.
You need to
speak out about the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's
mishandling of the northern development portion of its mandate.
We had some hope that the new minister, Bob Nault, would take the
Northern development part of his mandate seriously. He told us he
would. Unfortunately, he has fallen into the same trap as many of
his predecessors. He has taken the word of his southern based bureaucrats
and delayed a critical northern project. DIAND does not have a balanced
budget or bureaucracy. There is a preponderance of environmentalists
and regulators and few development specialists. We do not believe
that the minister gets balanced advice from this southern headquartered
agency and that is to the detriment of the northern mining industry.
Territories stands on the threshold of exciting developments: The
diamond industry continues to look favourable. Oil and gas offer
exciting opportunities. We are just beginning to see an increase
in interest in gold and base metals after three awful years of market
jitters and low prices. We should be doing cartwheels down Franklin
Avenue in celebration of our mineral wealth. But mineral potential
must be managed by humans if we are to benefit. Voisey's Bay looms
large as a good project which has been politically mishandled. Three
other world class nickel mines have opened in other counties since
Voisey's Bay was discovered. Will this ore body ever be allowed
to produce benefits for Canadians? We need to understand that we
operate in a global economy. We need also to understand that technological
advances of tomorrow may mean either boom or bust for any particular
mined commodity. On my desk today is an article detailing recent
successes in manufacturing artificial diamonds. They are getting
better every year, the only drawback is that they still cost more
than mined diamonds. How long before some bright young man or woman
discovers the secret of manufacturing them cheaply?
My point is
that we have to seize opportunities as they present themselves.
It's fine to say " Well the diamonds will always be there".
But will they be economically feasible to mine and provide the jobs,
business opportunities and tax revenues we northerners need to become
You need to
tell DIAND and Natural Resources Canada to re establish the budget
for northern geoscience programs. After the cutbacks over the past
years, expenditures North of 60 are less that ten per cent of that
in the provinces. It's $1.00 per square kilometer in the north vs.
$11.00 average in the provinces. Geoscience spending by government
is a key component of encouraging mineral exploration. Recent efforts
by Quebec and Manitoba in this area have paid huge dividends in
increased exploration and some very positive discoveries. I have
recently read a very positive paper in Mining Journal, the international
bible of the industry on the benefits of investing in mining projects
in Botswana. I don't think I have to tell the Yellowknife business
community about the importance of exploration to our economy. From
expediters, aviation companies, grocery stores, hotels and restaurants,
every business in this town makes part of its living from the fact
that we have a long history as a centre for northern exploration.
It was once a $200 million a year industry and can be again if it
is encouraged rather than being held to ransom.
of all, you need to call for a review of the regulatory environment
in the north. Over the past months we have seen a mining company's
project stalled by the minister of DIAND. This project has undergone
the most stringent environmental review ever done on a Canadian
mining project and gained approval from the federal minister of
the environment. Yet what has happened?
It has been
subject to the worst kind of extortion, blackmail and coercion (I
hope I haven't left any synonyms out) by Mr. Nault and his department.
None of the recent demands placed on the project proponents are
laid out in legislation or regulation. They are all add ons after
the fact. The company was forced to negotiate with a gun to its
head, in private, alone, and with the winter road closure looming
on the horizon. Is this a fair way to set northern mineral policy
or negotiate anything? I've said before that we in the industry
want the best environmental legislation in the world. A regulatory
regime that allows this to happen is not it. Again, we want DIAND
to write the rules down, tell us what they are, and stick to them.
is not celebrating the recent announcement that Diavik was granted
a land use permit. It will only be able carry out a small portion
of the work that it planned for this year. The delays have been
and will be critical to many northern businesses. The irony of this
situation is that it is small northern companies that Diavik has
purposefully included in its project who will suffer most along
with the Canadian junior joint venture partner in Diavik. Here we
have a northern based company bending over backwards to encourage
northern participation in its project and it is stalled by the federal
government. We are also concerned about the effect the delay may
have on the ability of the junior partner in the mine, Aber Resources
to raise capital on the stock market.
Just last week
I attended the Mining Millennium Conference in Toronto. This was
a combination of the Prospectors and Developers and the Canadian
Institute of Mining and Metallurgy annual conventions. There were
about 15, 000 people in attendance from all over the world. Every
continent and many countries were there to show there wares: their
mineral potential, their government sponsored geoscience programs,
their business acumen, their tax regimes and generally, their support
systems for mineral development. The international flavour of this
conference cannot be overemphasized. These countries and their projects
are the competition for our investment dollar. Every year less mining
exploration money raised on Canadian stock exchanges is spent in
Canada. The Canadian expertise in mining and exploration is being
used to develop other countries' economies.
The short form
of my message to you today is, if we don't speak out in support
of the northern mineral industry now, we will have to teach our
kids Spanish. That's where they'll have to go to find a future.
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