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Nunavut unveils mineral strategy

GN looks to cut red tape

By -none-

JOHN THOMPSON

The Government of Nunavut plans to commission an independent review of the territory’s maze of regulatory organizations, which critics say is unnecessarily slow and complex, and may be scaring off mining companies and scientists interested in working in the territory.

That news is contained in the GN’s new mineral strategy, Parnautit, which was recently tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

Right now, everyone from scientists conducting research in Nunavut to large mining territories preparing to extract diamonds and gold must navigate themselves through a long list of organizations, such as the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Nunavut Water Board, the Nunavut Planning Commission, as well as Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the three regional Inuit organizations.

The independent review will be followed by talks between the GN and these other organizations, with the intent of streamlining the permitting process.

One reason the permitting process is so complicated is because Nunavut still depends on out-of-date regulations, inherited from the Northwest Territories, which the new strategy says must be replaced.

For example, the Nunavut Water Board processes a wide range of applications, from potential composting sites in Iqaluit to large mining operations. Currently, there’s no threshold set for what type of project requires a water license.

As a result, the water board becomes bogged down at times by applications for minor projects.

To fix this, the GN is asking for help from the federal government’s department of Indian and Northern Affairs in developing new, Nunavut-specific water regulations.

As well, the strategy says the Nunavut Planning Commission should become a “one window” entry point for mining companies, so that companies could simply send project proposals to the commission, to be checked to see if it’s in compliance with local land use plans.

The government also wants to bring mineral staking in Nunavut into the modern era, by introducing electronic map staking, as is used in most of the country. Present laws require companies to physically stake their claims on the ground, which is an “expensive, uncertain, and unnecessary process,” the strategy says. A new Mineral Tenure Act will fix this.

And the strategy calls for the creation of a Nunavut Mines Act, to bring in consistent rules that mining companies would need to follow.

At present, mining activity in Nunavut is regulated differently, depending on whether it takes place on Crown land, Commissioner’s land, Inuit owned lands, or private lands. A Nunavut Mines Act would replace the old Territorial Lands Act, which was originally passed in 1952.

The GN will also continue the review, started in late 2004, of taxes that mining companies face.

And the GN is pushing for changes to federal law so that community consultations by mining companies are recognized as tax-deductible expenses, under the Investment Tax Credit for Exploration.

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