In this section
The Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment is proposing a Bill called the Mineral Resources Act.
Broadly, this is a set of laws that will guide a great deal of the way mining and mineral exploration and production in the NWT will happen, and how these should benefit the Northwest Territories.
The MRA would be the NWT’s first-ever stand-alone Act governing mining in the territory.
Currently, mining rights are regulated through the Mining Regulations — a set of rules which are currently in place under the Northwest Territories Lands Act (NWTLA).
The Coal Regulations and Dredging Regulations also apply to mining activities in the NWT and are also part of the NWTLA.
All of those rules are currently the same as when Devolution happened in 2014, a process that allowed the GNWT to take over management of most NWT lands and natural resources from the federal government.
This proposed Bill will move these decades-old regulations under a stand-alone Act, and give new powers to change them to fit with our territory’s vision today — and in the future.
At the beginning of the 18th Legislative Assembly, a new Mineral Resource Act was identified as a commitment under the Government of the Northwest Territories Mandate for 2016-2019. The need for a new Mineral Resources Act had previously been identified in the current GNWT Mineral Development Strategy.
The Department completed in-depth research on our existing legislative framework and industry practices, and those of other provinces and territories, and jurisdictions around the world to see how they might work in the Northwest Territories’ unique operating environment.
To get input from residents, 120 days of public and stakeholder engagement were held from August through December 2017. Through seven community visits, several meetings with Indigenous governments and organizations, an online engagement platform, emails, phone calls, faxes, and letters, the Department received hundreds of comments which were considered in policy development.
The Department worked closely with Indigenous governments through the Intergovernmental Council (IGC) throughout the policy development process. A Technical Advisory Panel was also established, which included Indigenous governments who were both members and non-members of the Intergovernmental Council.
The proposed Mineral Resources Act is designed to create a modern set of laws which will allow the GNWT to make rules to:
- Encourage positive relationships between Indigenous governments and organizations, industry, communities, and the GNWT.
- Regulate mineral interests efficiently, effectively, and transparently.
- Support the economy of the Northwest Territories.
- Work within the Northwest Territories’ unique system of managing natural resources.
- Respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
- Maximize benefits to people, Indigenous governments and organizations, and communities of the territory.
- Improve geoscience knowledge in the Northwest Territories.
- Ensure the NWT’s mineral wealth is used to benefit the people of the NWT today, and in the future.
Broadly, an Act sets the big picture rules, and gives the government the right authorities to determine how things will be done.
If you were thinking of a house, an Act would be like the foundation and framing — setting the big picture outline of the house based on the size of the property, your overall goals for the house, and the condition of the landscape surrounding it.
Regulations would be the appliances, the paint, the furniture — everything that rounds out the house and makes it a good place to live.
Neither one of them do well if the other is poorly designed — a fancy leather couch is no good if the roof is about to cave in, and a perfectly designed house doesn’t truly feel like home without some furniture and decorations.
This is the strong foundation necessary to manage the NWT’s exploration and mining for the future. The provisions and powers set out in the Bill are meant to provide a comprehensive yet flexible framework for the future of mining in the NWT to meet the needs of NWT residents.
The NWTLA does not currently provide the right powers to achieve this under the Mining Regulations, Coal Regulations, or Dredging Regulations.
Creating a stand-alone Act to govern mining and exploration will allow the government to be more nimble as the industry evolves and new challenges and priorities arise in the future, while better responding to the unique system of natural resource management which exists in the Northwest Territories.
What this Bill does propose are several important, complementary changes which can be broken into five broad categories:
- Benefits for the Northwest Territories
- From Exploration to Production
- Building Relationships
- Working in the Public Interest
- Advancing Exploration
These changes would be set out in both the text of the legislation, any new regulations developed under the Act, and the revised or improved content of the Mining Regulations, Coal Regulations, and Dredging Regulations, which would be moved under the authority of this Act from the NWT Lands Act.
Many mineral explorers and miners are operating within the NWT. This means many companies have been doing business here under current legislation and regulations.
To ensure these companies have the certainty to move forward with their operations in confidence, the proposed Bill has measures to ensure the smooth continuity of business.
Coming Into Force
Coming into force is when requirements under a piece of legislation become enforceable. This would happen once necessary regulations and supporting materials have been developed to effectively administer the rules and hold people accountable.
This means this Act would not come into force right away. Supporting regulations, information system infrastructure, training, and public awareness materials will need to be developed to make sure that the GNWT would be ready to enforce the various provisions under the Act if passed.
In other words, companies would not be expected to change the way they do business immediately.
New rules within the Act could be put into force in stages as the appropriate regulations are developed.
Legislation implementation is often done over a reasonably long period. There is no reason why this legislation would be different.
Before Coming Into Force
Mining and exploration activity will continue under the current Mining Regulations. While there is currently no activity under them, the Coal Regulations and Dredging Regulations will also remain in place.
After Coming Into Force
When new rules under this legislation come into force, it will be communicated to affected governments, companies, stakeholders, and employees. Awareness and training materials will be produced to avoid confusion on the rules.
Claims Staked or Marked
Once the new Act and its regulations are in force, all Mineral Claims marked or staked, but not recorded officially, will be subject to this new Act and its regulations.
Mining or Exploration Activities Already Underway
Any individual or company holding Mineral Claims or Mineral Leases in the Northwest Territories before this Act comes into force would be subject to the same terms under which they were approved to do so initially. This is unless the regulations under the Mineral Resources Act provide for changes to those terms in which case reasonable and sufficient notice would be provided.