Debate continues to simmer around the pending $149-million (U.S.) sale of TMAC Resources and control of the Kitikmeot Hope Bay gold property to Chinese-based Shandong Gold Mining.
Commenting on a previous Nunavut News article about the prospective deal, Yellowknife MLA Rylund Johnson strongly urged the Government of Canada to reject the purchase agreement.
“There is no benefit to the Inuit in having a Canadian colonizer swapped out for a Chinese one,” Johnson wrote. “There are so many risks that come with allowing the Chinese government to increase influence in the Arctic, including the fact they are one of our main competitors in mining.”
Johnson quoted a Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report that warned against the purchase of a different Canadian company by a Chinese state-owned enterprise – and Shandong Mining is also state-owned. The report warned of “vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, control over strategic sectors, espionage and foreign-influenced activities, and illegal transfer of technology and expertise” as China strengthens its stake in Canada.
Johnson faulted the federal government for failing to invest enough in the Arctic.
“If Canada had real economic development corporations and gave the North’s indigenous development corporations meaningful capital, then we could actually own some of our own resources as a country,” he stated. “As it is set up right now, China will keep stepping in when Canada fails to invest in its own development. Canada should not approve this sale for Arctic sovereignty reasons, but as a remedy for denying the sale they should give Inuit development corporations the capital to buy and operate the mine themselves.”
Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, referred to the potential deal as “very troubling,” but for a different reason.
“There are two Canadians jailed in (China) over an issue of retaliation of Canada arresting an executive. Yet here in Nunavut, a mine is being sold,” said Towtongie. “We ought to be more vigilant than just selling out.”
David Akeeagok, Nunavut’s minister of mines and economic development, said he’s confident that the federal government’s review will “balance the complexities of this kind of transaction.”
“All companies operating in Nunavut and in Canada must abide by the rules and regulations that permit their operations, from start-up to closure, regardless of ownership,” Akeeagok said. “The Government of Nunavut continues to monitor the situation closely and will work with the company to support sustainable development of our resources and provide opportunities to Nunavummiut that balance environmental concerns and economic benefits.”
Akeeagok also noted that there are existing Inuit Impact Benefit Agreements in place with TMAC Resources to ensure employment opportunities for Nunavut Inuit well into the future.
John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, said if the federal government and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s reviews of the deal allow it to proceed, then he doesn’t have any concerns.
Main pointed out that private investment drives exploration and mining worldwide and Nunavut needs those investment dollars.
“We need Nunavut to be seen as a competitive, stable jurisdiction for investment. I’m less concerned about the nationality of the companies working here and more concerned about whether the industry as a whole provides sufficient benefit to our communities,” he said.
Like Akeeagok, Main said there are established environmental and employment standards that Shandong Mining would be required to meet. He added that partnerships need to be forged between governments, Inuit organizations and industry to ensure more Nunavummiut are filling jobs at the mines.