Wally Schumann: Speech to Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce

News Type: 
Speeches

Delivered February 5, 2019 

(Check against delivery)

Good afternoon and thank you for being here this afternoon.

Last week was an eventful week for many of us at the AME Roundup Conference in Vancouver. It was a full week of meaningful discussions with investors, exploration companies and our partners.

There was also a lot of good news.

  • The Socio-Economic Agreement signing between the GNWT and Fortune Minerals marked an important step on the road to the NWT becoming home to Canada’s first primary Cobalt mine.
  • The Impact Benefit Agreement between NorZinc and the Nahanni Butte Dene Band was another demonstration of our communities’ dedication to working with industry to realize mutual benefits.
  • Avalon’s announcement of their small-scale project was also welcome news.
  • And as many of you heard, I was happy to announce our intention to partner with Canada to market the Mactung deposit and Cantung mine as Tungsten prices are on-the-rise.
  • All-told, I can confidently say this was a success and well worth the investment as we look to attract investment to support a strong economic future for our territory.

This afternoon I want to take some time to talk to you about the new Mineral Resources Act for the Northwest Territories that I am preparing to table in the Legislative Assembly.

The proposed Act will be the NWT’s first stand-alone and made-in-the-north mining law. It will be one of the most significant pieces of legislation considered by the NWT Legislative Assembly since Devolution and if passed, will be unlike anything else that exists across the country.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has done a lot of work to make sure it meets these expectations.

It is the result of several years of research, four months of public dialogue and a period of continuous engagement with our Indigenous governments, industry, and stakeholders through what has been a thorough policy development process.

Here are some of the highlights in the Act:

  • If passed, it will mark the end of our territory’s use of federal regulations which no longer respond to the expectations of our residents, or the realities of doing business in the North.  
  • It proposes to put the authorities in place that will allow us to attract and regulate a mining sector in our territory.
  • It will require mining companies to negotiate agreements with the territorial government to provide benefits for the Northwest Territories.

The proposed legislation would also require that agreements benefiting Indigenous peoples be negotiated by mining companies with Indigenous governments. This formalizes in large part what we already do, but is a first for Canada, and unique around the world.

For industry, we believe it will reduce a great deal of uncertainty.

Also in this Bill are measures to build mutually beneficial relationships between companies, governments, and communities throughout the minerals cycle. This includes incentives for engaging early-and-often while exploring for minerals so this work is prioritized.

The proposed legislation also includes measures to eventually make exploration more transparent for the benefit of Indigenous governments, industry, and anyone else interested in understanding where activity is happening. 

We’ve also made sure that the proposed Act includes a suite of tools to avoid and resolve conflicts between parties throughout the process.

We know that given the Northwest Territories’ economic priorities, we need to look at ways to encourage responsible exploration.

To address this, we are proposing measures to incentivize exploration in areas proposed by Indigenous governments, or by our government with appropriate engagement. This includes things like modernizing the way mineral claims are staked in the Northwest Territories.

We’ve also taken appropriate steps to enable solutions to aspects of our current regime which may lack clarity. 

The proposed legislation takes into consideration that geological information is essential and that there is a great deal of data collected through mining activities.

Through the legislation, we’ll collect more geological information through all stages of the mineral development cycle. This measure will increase our understanding of NWT’s complex geology and could encourage economic development in the future — while also respecting the need for reasonable confidentiality to protect commercial interests.

Overall, the proposed Mineral Resources Act I intend to introduce this week will be the framework for the future of mining in our territory.

This is a made-in-the-North legislation is a balance of what we’ve heard is needed in the North for industry, business, Indigenous governments, stakeholder groups and NWT residents.

Much of the detail regarding “how” our new legislation will work will be shaped by supporting regulations that still need to be developed.  In large part, that will be the work of the next Assembly.

Before I wrap up, I want to quickly make sure that you also understand what you won’t see in our proposed legislation.

This includes:

  • Anything that duplicates processes already in-place to govern mining in our territory.
  • Rehabilitation and environmental protection measures. Land and water boards already regulate those practices.
  • Financial securities for mines. This element is not included because other legislation already exists for that.
  • And finally, you won’t see the proposed Act encroaching on any rules or agreements already in-place — including land claim, land use, and self-government agreements.

What I hope you do see in the MRA is what I do: a strong foundation for the GNWT to manage mining in a way that makes sure NWT residents benefit; fosters positive relationships; advances the public interest; and brings certainty to industry so they’ll do business in the North.

The GNWT has a strong history of fostering relationships between Indigenous and public governments and responsible developers to ensure that our residents and their communities benefit from the resource development that is happening. I believe this piece of legislation will only add to our abilities to continue this.

Northerners support the responsible development of our resources. Mining has played a large part in the history of the Northwest Territories and our residents know how vital this sector has been, and will continue to be. 

The Department of Industry Tourism and Investment will be releasing public education materials about the proposed Act this week. This is being done in an effort to provide a strong understanding of what we believe the Mineral Resource Act will achieve, if passed.

Your engagement will be critical during this process and I would encourage each of you to seek out this information, get acquainted with the details of our proposals and take part as the conversation about this legislation as it moves through the legislative process.

Thank you again for being here and listening to this presentation. I look forward to answering a few questions shortly.