Mining in the Far North; Impressions of Yellowknife, NWT

| February 17, 2017

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In the far North of Canada, lies a territory that is not in the news regularly. Many people don’t know of its capital, or much else about it. Northwest Territories is one of the three territories making up the Canadian north. With a population of roughly 43,000 residents, it is the most populous territory in Northern Canada. Unlike anywhere else in Canada, the Northwest Territories is a very diverse, interesting and essentially booming part of Canada, despite its remote location. With 11 official languages, and a vibrant Aboriginal participation in governance, the NWT stands-out.
Travelling to this part of the country there was one central question to dig into; how does government and business interact, where there are a number of different stakeholders based regionally in different parts of the territory. One interesting aspect of the Northwest Territories is the fascinating intersection of politics and Aboriginal culture. Especially considering how the NWT government has been in the process of negotiating treaties with the different Aboriginal communities, it became clear that Aboriginal communities lie at the center of many things in this territory.
It was amazing to see just how much progress has been made on the front of Aboriginal rights recognition; especially in terms of interaction with the mining sector in particular and the private sector in general. Seeing Aboriginal communities empowered, interacting with large, multinational corporations to secure a deal beneficial to their community was a breath of fresh air. Working together with companies in the mining sector, Aboriginal businesses are booming, communities are getting investment and people are being employed. The inclusive approach of the NWT government plays a critical role in this formula.
The industry in focus is mining and mineral extraction. Not surprisingly, Northern Canada is one of the largest untapped mining areas in the world. With the first mine going into operation in early 1930s, the mining sector has essentially become the backbone of this territory. Not only does this sector provide valuable employment and important tax dollars into the NWT economy, but it also provides significant training, education, infrastructure, development and community benefits as well.
Currently, there are two mines in operation in the Northwest Territories; the Ekati and Diavik diamond mines. The current level of operation is by no means an indicator of the potential that this territory holds however. Exploration data indicates that there are at least 12 sites where mining of everything from gold, tungsten, cobalt, bismuth to rare earths and base metals can be established.
What was truly inspiring to see in the NWT was how well these mining giants have not only integrated into their communities, but the level of investment, support and commitment they provide to them. With a number of agreements signed between the sector and the government, as well as aboriginal communities on whose land they operate, mining giants are actually creating meaningful benefits in the region they operate. With each mining operation having signed a socio-economic agreement, the benefits to the communities is not only in terms of employment opportunities with generous salaries, but also in terms of scholarships for students, infrastructure investment in these remote areas, investment into social and community projects and many others. The Measuring Success document published jointly by BHP Billiton EKATI, Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mines and De Beers showcases just how the industry has helped to give shape to the territory and provided significant investment into its development.
With the rising demand for not only luxury items, but also base and alkali metals, the NWT is ripe for investment. The government is more than willing to open the doors to negotiations for any interested company. While the sector has had rough days recently, it is poised to rebound. What I’ve seen has made me a believer; the mining sector has done wonders for NWT development and especially for remote Aboriginal communities. I urge our readers to look more into this untapped region for business inspiration.

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