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"

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)

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

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share Comment on this story...

(8) Comments:

#1. Posted by Qajaaq on February 23, 2018

“Mining is our new seal industry”
Seriously? You don’t feel awkward, misleading& even a bit dirty for saying something like that??

I respect & appreciate the fact that we must seek, identify & pursue options to allow Nunavummiut to participate in the economy.
(but)Digging & filling “tailings ponds”-extracting resources & allowing such a disproportionate portion of benefits and profits & income to leak out of the territory needs to be looked at closer.

The financial figures associated with mining & mineral development can sometimes be impressive. But if we look closer at how much of the benefits leak out of our territory, we will recognize that it is perhaps not so impressive. Especially when we look to possibilities and likeliness of the damaging & lasting negative impacts associated with activities like gold mining have on our land, our waters & our wildlife.

I have other issues with what is said in this article but trying to sell mining as “our new seal industry” got to me.

#2. Posted by Miner 1 on February 23, 2018

“Mining is our new seal industry.”

Sealing is sustainable.  It’s forever.

Tell us, Alex, how we will have a sustainable mining industry?  How are we using the output of our mines to build a “forever” economy?

#3. Posted by Alethea on February 23, 2018

Get your perspectives straight Alex. Mining was the federal government’s reason to negotiate the land claims. Language, culture and protection of hunting grounds were the reasons for negotiating on the Inuit side.

It’s fine for you to show your support for mining, that’s your own opinion. But don’t try to twist history to support your view.

#4. Posted by Mining Matters on February 23, 2018

#1, -  As you referred to the financial benefits of mining, they are indeed impressive, billions invested in Nunavut and many locals are included in that figure. -  As for the benefits leaking out of the Territory, industry is doing all it can to hire local, but as they say ” You can lead a horse to water but you cannot force him to drink”, and at the end of the day the job must get done.

- As for the lasting negative effects associated with activities, Just to note, all operating mines in Nunavut combined take up less than 1% of the land mass in Nunavut. A small negative effect considering such the large positive return for generations to come.

Also,  i would like to bring your attention to the large hole in the earth at the end of Federal Road in Iqaluit, ( Gravel Source) funny how no one seems to care about that!

#5. Posted by Frankie on February 23, 2018

“Sealing is sustainable.  It’s forever.”

Well, it’s obviously NOT forever. The animal-rights people made sure of that.

And, #3, the Inuit had a whole team of geologists on their side of the negotiating table. The selections are about evenly split between “traditional-use” and “mineral-potential”, at least in the Kitikmeot.

#6. Posted by Stay in school on February 23, 2018

What Alex is trying to state here is that, we need our kids to stay in school so that they may pursue other jobs that aren’t just HEO’s, labourers, core splitters or drillers helpers.  Mining is creating tons of jobs but us Inuit aren’t getting into the higher paid more skilled positions.
Us as parents need to ensure that we guide our children to pursue a higher education so that we (Inuit) may attain these higher level positions in the minin industry.
I don’t think Alex is trying to take shots at anyone by saying that mining is the new seal industry. Seals will always be apart of our culture.

Thank you Alex for always trying to help our fellow Inuit to attain jobs at the mines.

#7. Posted by Keep it Real on February 23, 2018

Hunting seals will always be an important part of Inuit culture, but the “sealing industry” was an economic anomaly that lasted a few decades then shriveled up and died.

What’s real is that everyone in Nunavut is a consumer of industrial goods and services (and most want more, not fewer such goods and services). Yet some of us think that we shouldn’t be at all involved in their production. Whether they realize it or not, these people are peddling eternal dependence. Not everyone can be a public servant or a filmmaker.

Mining can help us adapt to the wage economy. Once paid work is normalized other industries will open up, industries that are currently limited by their reliance on imported labour.

@#4 Good point about the gravel pit. There’s also a sewage lagoon and a garbage dump. And even with all the poverty we have here we’re among the most carbon intensive people in the world. Let’s ditch the delusion that we have no impact on the environment.

#8. Posted by Jobi on February 23, 2018

Mining is fine but not many Inuit get jobs at mines. That is what Inuit tell me nowadays and when I was younger I worked at Polaris Mine & Nanisivik Mine and mostly only people from Ont, Que & Nfld worked there. Probably will always be the same.

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?