NWT minerals industry seeking judicial review of Land Use Permit decision

26 May 2021

(Yellowknife, NT – May 26, 2021) The NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines (Chamber), supported by the Mining Association of Canada, is seeking judicial review of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board’s recent decision to deny more than a single Land Use Permit extension.

The Chamber believes the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Boards (Boards) have jurisdiction to extend land use permits more than once, where it is appropriate to do so and where a project has not materially changed and community engagement is maintained. The Boards would retain their oversight role, while reducing unnecessary regulatory burden and duplication. We believe this will help align the Boards’ practice more closely with their mandate under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA) “to provide for the conservation, development and utilization of land and water resources in a manner that will provide the optimum benefit generally for all Canadians and in particular for residents of the Mackenzie Valley.”

Over the last three years – and starting well before the COVID pandemic – territorial and Indigenous governments along with economic institutions including the Conference Board of Canada, have flagged the serious economic decline the NWT is facing due to its ailing minerals industry (the biggest contributor to the economy). Additional information was published recently by Statistics Canada showing that economic decline and productivity in the NWT is now the worst in Canada, largely connected to declines in mineral resource exploration and development. The NWT Finance Minister said the numbers "highlight the urgency of the situation" the territory faces.

The NWT minerals industry continues its efforts to help governments and regulatory boards identify and make improvements to address ailing mineral exploration investment and declining mineral production. Allowing more than one land use permit extension is not advocating a rubber-stamping exercise, rather, we maintain that the MVRMA was not intended to require proponents to re-invent the wheel and expend significant resources (often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) to apply for a new permit every seven years if nothing has changed and circumstances necessitate an extension.

The Chamber believes that the Board’s decision was made without full consideration of these factors and the appropriate legal framework, and is therefore asking the court to revisit the issue. The intent of the Chamber’s application is to improve regulatory certainty and efficiency, and still respect the letter and spirit of the MVRMA, to protect the environment and contribute to economic prosperity in the NWT.  If adopted, the Chamber’s position could benefit not only the critically important minerals industry, but also permit holders across other sectors including governments, municipalities, Indigenous communities, and scientific research.

See Backgrounder attached for permit renewal process and important NWT economic indicators.

For more information on the NWT and Nunavut mining industries, including a copy of the judicial review application filed in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, please visit the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines website at www.miningnorth.com or contact Tom Hoefer, Executive Director at Tel: 867-873-5281 (ext 2) or email: executivedirector@miningnorth.com.



Permit renewal processes

  • Most land use operations in the NWT, including mineral exploration and construction activities, whether by industry, governments, municipalities or Indigenous communities, require a Land Use Permit.  
  • The Boards issue Land Use Permits for these activities with terms of up to 5 years after a rigorous application process.
  • Reasons to ask for multiple extensions to Land Use Permits could include a downturn in the markets, financing challenges, unforeseen delays, and most recently, the inability for companies to access their projects due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
  • Once a Land Use Permit expires, it must be renewed to continue operations.
  • The MVLWB treats renewals the same as a new permit application and requires the proponent to start the process essentially from the beginning. This is a costly and lengthy process with uncertain outcomes and is typically redundant for projects where the scope has not changed from the initial permit approval.
  • A process began in late 2019 for public and Indigenous governments, agencies, Boards, and industry to find ways to make improvements to the NWT’s regulatory environment. The process is ongoing.
  • The Chamber of Mines continues its efforts to recommend improvements that would encourage resource companies to invest and work in the NWT, and in so doing, revitalize mineral exploration and mining that also provide many significant benefits to communities, residents, businesses and governments.

Important NWT Mineral Industry Economic Indicators

Click here for Originating Notice for Judicial Review-filed May26-2021