GUEST COMMENT: Essential that city implement strategy for mineral industry

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Guest comment by Gary Vivian, president of the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines

It is critical to Yellowknife’s economy, housing market, school and tax bases that the city act to support the mineral industry as council develops its strategic plan. That’s the urgent message our Chamber of Mines just delivered to city council.

Gary Vivian

In 2017, the city was home to over 1,000 mining industry employees and their families who contributed over $100 million in benefits to the city. The majority of the $800 million spent by the mines that year supported Yellowknife based businesses – including Indigenous corporations – and their employees. And Yellowknife has long benefited from being the exploration hub for the NWT and western Nunavut.

These significant benefits are at risk.

Mineral exploration investment today is weak and has not recovered over the past 12 years. While investors took their money to more welcoming jurisdictions, the NWT lost over $1.4 billion in exploration activity. Yellowknife-based air charter, diamond drilling, expediting, retail, Indigenous, service and geological consulting businesses have suffered.

Mining benefits are now at risk too. Our diamond mines are moving towards closure and low exploration investment means not enough new mines have been found to replace them.

With nearly 40 per cent of the economy coming from minerals, Yellowknife and the NWT are now on a dangerous economic path and their economies are forecast to keep declining.

We are not the only voices in the chorus.

The Conference Board of Canada reached the same conclusion in early 2018 when it stated the economic outlook is grim. Premier McLeod reinforced this at the Indigenous Summit in October: “… the NWT is facing significant economic challenges and steps need to be taken immediately.”

The Indigenous Roundtable in December was summed up ominously in the media by Dehcho Grand Chief Norwegian with: “Looks like a dark cloud for the NWT’s economy”.

With Yellowknife’s economy now at significant risk, the chamber asked council to establish a pillar in its strategic plan to support the mineral industry and Yellowknife residents and businesses with a number of actions.

Given how expensive it is to live and work here, the most significant action is to lobby for infrastructure investment, in particular to bring Taltson hydropower to Yellowknife to provide cheaper, greener power. Just as Yellowknife’s existing power was facilitated by the gold mines, the power corporation says demand from new mines is necessary to make cheaper power for residents and businesses a reality.

We also recommended city council curb its spending given that mineral industry revenues are forecast to drop significantly in coming years. Taxpayers need to be protected.

We asked city council to help rebuild Yellowknife as the mineral exploration centre and to work hard to attract more workers and businesses to Yellowknife to serve the Northern mineral industry.

The city has strong roots in the mineral industry – look at the symbols in the city’s crest. Look too at its trademark “Diamond Capital of North America,” which represents “the future of Yellowknife as the centre of commercial and resource development activity for the Northwest Territories.”

The Conference Board of Canada reports that: “the NWT could be out of the diamond business entirely in just 10 years.”

It’s time for this council to get behind its mineral industry with strong actions in its strategic plan to protect its residents, its businesses, and its mineral industry for its economic future.

Finally, we asked the city to officially and loudly proclaim its support for the mineral industry as other cities are doing.

View the Chamber’s presentation on our mininingnorth.com website.

Then urge city council to protect your own economic future by urging them to support a strong mineral industry going forward.

We’ll all benefit.

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