Chamber of Mines recent editorial - GNWT must continue to support mineral development

15 January 2018

Guest editorial by Gary Vivian, President NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines - GNWT must continue to support mineral development

A recent article published by CBC North titled, 'N.W.T. government to spend more than $236K to send officials to Vancouver mining show, again', attempts to paint the minerals industry in a negative light particularly with the subheading, "Mining has lowest ratio of jobs per dollar spent: report". What it refers to is a GNWT report showing mining has one of the lowest "jobs per million dollars of output". The report reveals that 1.1 mining jobs creates $1 million in output, while it takes 23.4 forestry and logging jobs to do the same. What this means then is a mining job creates over $900,000 in value, while a forestry job generates only $43,000. That's a clear argument for why we need more mining jobs to contribute extremely large output to our economy. 

Nonetheless, what bothers me more about this type of unnecessary, divisive and extremely misleading commentary on the industry, is two factors.
One, it is just plain wrong. 
Mineral development is absolutely a crucial aspect of the NWT economy and a major contributor to our communities. Last year alone it supported 1,667 direct Northern jobs of which approximately half were Indigenous. On top of this, mining spent $818 million with Northern businesses, and $325 million of this was with Indigenous businesses. 
Secondly, communities in the NWT support mining and understand this, contrary to the narrative at times presented by those with ulterior motives. 
Don't believe me? A 2016 Abacus survey found that 80 per cent of residents have positive feelings about the industry, 86 per cent say mining is good for the NWT, 83 per cent say regulation of the sector works well and 82 per cent would like to see more mining projects in the NWT. 
While it is not the Chamber's job to speak about government spending, anyone in the industry knows the importance of AME Roundup, and other conferences, for drumming up business and investment, sharing best practices, and networking. GNWT leaders supporting their mining industry at these types of events is absolutely fundamental to the NWT's investment competitiveness. I don't believe it's unreasonable for government to invest 0.01 per cent (one hundredth of one per cent) of the NWT budget to help attract new investment at one of the country's most important mineral exploration conferences. 
Yes, of course we should pursue other opportunities to diversify our economy, but mineral development and exploration has been, is, and will continue to be a critical contributor to the NWT economy. This zero sum game and misleading representation that mining and other activities are mutually exclusive is doing a disservice to the NWT. The NWT needs leadership support to regain its competitiveness, to bring back the more than a billion dollars of exploration investment dollars that have flowed to other, more aggressive jurisdictions. Rejuvenating flagging mineral exploration investment at conferences like Roundup will sustain future mining benefits for all Northerners. 
Kudos to GNWT – and to Northern Indigenous leaders too – for attending Roundup and bragging up the NWT as a mining investment destination.