Nunatsiaq News
COMMENTARY: Around the Arctic February 22, 2018 - 8:00 am

The Nunavut mining industry is back

"We negotiated our land claim agreement with mineral development as our economic foundation"

SPECIAL TO NUNATSIAQ NEWS
A view of the Mary River project in North Baffin. Nine years ago, there were no producing mines in Nunavut but now there are mines in all three regions. (FILE PHOTO)
A view of the Mary River project in North Baffin. Nine years ago, there were no producing mines in Nunavut but now there are mines in all three regions. (FILE PHOTO)
Alex Buchan, the Nunavut vice president of the Northwest Territories-Nunavut Chamber of Mines, points out that the Nunavut land claims agreement was negotiated so that mining would become the territory's economic foundation. (PHOTO COURTESY NWT-NUNAVUT CHAMBER OF MINES)
Alex Buchan, the Nunavut vice president of the Northwest Territories-Nunavut Chamber of Mines, points out that the Nunavut land claims agreement was negotiated so that mining would become the territory's economic foundation. (PHOTO COURTESY NWT-NUNAVUT CHAMBER OF MINES)

ALEX BUCHAN
Nunavut Vice President
Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to tell delegates at the recent Northern Lights conference in Ottawa about our new Nunavut mining industry, and I want to share that with you here.

I say “new mining industry,” as just nine years ago we had no mining at all—zero production.

Since then, mines have opened in each of our three regions, and their benefits have grown to over 20 per cent of our economy.

In those nine short years, we’ve already reached half the value of the Northwest Territories mining industry.

With new opportunities before us at Amaruq, Meliadine, Back River, and Chidliak, to name a few, we might even catch up with the N.W.T.

Why is mining important? Because it creates benefits for Nunavut and Nunavummiut.

Recent work by our chamber of mines shows that last year we had about 2,000 mining jobs and Nunavummiut captured nearly 400 of them.

Our businesses are benefiting too. Last year our mines spent over $250 million with Nunavut companies, bringing the total to over $2 billion.

I’m very encouraged that our mining industry is creating benefits through jobs, local businesses, taxes for our governments and royalties for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
But I know we can do more to benefit from mining. In particular, with jobs.

Currently about 20 per cent of our mine workers are Nunavummiut. We need to set our goals higher.

I assure you our mines are keen to do their part to increase local employment.

Recently Agnico Eagle committed to working with the Kivalliq Inuit to reach 50 per cent Inuit employment. At TMAC’s new Hope Bay mine, where I work, we are now at 15 per cent and planning to go higher.

But it’s going to take all of us—Government of Nunavut, NTI, Canada, communities, industry and even parents—to get our kids to stay in school, to provide training programs and to raise people’s awareness of mining and its opportunities.

How many of us know there are over 50 different jobs on a mine site?

Miners, yes, but also chefs, mechanics, accountants, engineers, warehouse people, power plant operators, and more.

We also have some other challenges to overcome to make the most of our industry.

We need to address falling exploration investment, which companies say are due to uncertainties in land use planning and access to explore some Inuit-owned lands.

There is also much needed infrastructure required to help lower costs for all of us.

Our chamber of mines and its many member companies will continue to work with the governments of Nunavut and Canada, as well as with NTI, to address these challenges and further grow the mineral industry’s benefits for Nunavut.

Twenty-five years ago, we negotiated our land claims agreement with mineral development as our economic foundation.

We hired geologists to help us select high mineral potential lands, and those lands are now starting to create wealth for us through royalties. But royalties aren’t the biggest benefit, nor should they ever be.

Rather, strengthening and benefitting our people with mining jobs and business must be the goal.

After all, that’s what we Inuit have been doing since time immemorial—using the resources from our land to look after us.

Mining is our new seal industry.

Check out my presentation and learn more about our Nunavut minerals industry. I encourage you to see how you can get involved.

Quana, Matna, Qujannamiik!

Alex Buchan’s presentation to Northern Lights is available on miningnorth.com.

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