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New NWT assembly faces economic challenges with resource depletion and exploration cutbacks: Chamber of Mines

by Greg Klein | October 3, 2019

Even with three candidates winning by acclamation, Tuesday’s Northwest Territories election featured several closely fought contests that left two Yellowknife ridings up for recount. Current standings in the party-less legislative assembly show 12 newcomers out of 19 seats. Former premier Bob McLeod didn’t run and only one cabinet minister, Caroline Cochrane, won re-election.

Mining comprises the jurisdiction’s biggest private sector employer but the three current operations, all diamond mines, face depletion. With no comparable advanced projects to take their place and a drop in exploration spending, the territory faces “impending economic decline,” the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines warned. The group called on the new assembly to strengthen mining and exploration as well as diversify the economy by working with Ottawa to improve road and power infrastructure.

“We are hopeful the 19th Assembly will accept this challenge with gusto,” said Chamber president Gary Vivian. “Our Chamber of Mines looks forward to helping the newly elected Assembly in taking steps quickly to rejuvenate investment and reverse the expected decline in mineral production and its significant benefits to the NWT.”

The Chamber polled candidates during the campaign for responses on mining-related questions. In another document distributed to candidates, the Chamber offered recommendations on seven mining-related issues:

New NWT legislative assembly faces economic challenges with resource depletion and exploration cutbacks

  • access to land

  • insufficient infrastructure

  • high Northern costs

  • regulatory costs and delays

  • Indigenous governments’ expectations and demands

  • public awareness of the industry

  • a strategy to improve investment confidence

Last year’s Fraser Institute survey of mining companies showed the territory climbing to 10th place from #21 on the Investment Attractiveness Index, which rates a region’s geological bounty as well as government policies. But the NWT languished at #42 on the Policy Perception Index, which focuses on government treatment of the industry.

Data quoted by the Chamber attributes over 40% of territorial GDP to mining and exploration, and 1,540 jobs in 2018 to diamond mining. As of January 1 the territory’s population came to 44,598 people, according to a Statistics Canada estimate.

In a system that recognizes no political parties, the MLAs will meet on October 25 to choose a premier and six-member Executive Council that acts as the government’s decision-making body.

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