Why is it important to create a new Mineral Resources Act?

The Mining Regulations which currently govern mining and explorationwere passed down by the federal government when the Northwest Territories assumed control of land and natural resources in 2014’s Devolution agreement. They are not responsive to the realities of today’s Northwest Territories. It’s time to move forward.

It is our duty as a government to make sure mining and exploration is managed in a way that respects the rights and a tradition of Indigenous people, provides certainty to industry, and balances the need for environmental protection while maximizing public benefits from mining.

We’re taking action with input from Indigenous governments and organizations, industry, interest groups, and members of the public to do just that with this new Act.

What about all the other laws and agreements governing land and resources? Will this Act alter them?

Only the Mining Regulations, which will be replaced as part of this process, will be altered. No other federal or territorial laws or agreements will be altered. Check out this helpful backgrounder on how the eventual Act will complement other laws. 

Everyone keeps talking about Devolution. What does that mean?

Devolution is an agreement between the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and the Government of Canada that came into force on April 1, 2014 which saw management  and control  of land, water and natural resources passed on to the GNWT. 

One component of the Devolution Agreement transferred regulatory management and control of mineral resource development to the GNWT. This was when the management of mining and exploration came into our hands. 

It is the reason why the Government of the Northwest Territories can now create this Act. 

Who is in charge of managing mining and exploration in the NWT?

The Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment is in charge of the exploration (prospecting) phase of the mining industry and regulates this activity through the use of the Mining Regulations. Mining leases for the subsurface minerals and the payment of mineral and diamond royalties are also regulated by the Minister. There are federal and territorial laws which govern mining activity that are outside this department’s responsibility.

For example, the federal government controls most of the environmental regulations through the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. For a quick explanation, check out this backgrounder on the Mineral Resources Act and how it will work with all these laws.

How much does mining contribute to the NWT economy?

In 2016, mineral exploration, mining, and mining support activities contributed $647 million to the NWT’s Gross Domestic Product — the measure of economic activity in the territory. That’s more than 17% of the total. 

What is a mineral claim?

A mineral claim is an area of land that has been staked by a prospector (individual or company) and if recorded grants the exclusive rights for the recorded claim holder to conduct mineral exploration activities of the subsurface mineral potential within the area of claim. The claim holder must conduct work  and report it in order to keep the claim in good standing. Each claim is valid for up to 10 years during which work must be completed that is equal to or greater than $45.00 per hectare.

How is a mineral claim marked?

A mineral claim must be staked on the ground with legal posts in each of the four corners and boundary posts must also be staked every 500 meters between the legal posts. Witness posts may be used if terrain or a hazard prevents the use of a legal post at any of the corners. Each legal post at the corners must have a mineral claim tag affixed to it that has prescribed information etched on the tag. Matching detailed information must be drawn on a claim staking map.

Who can stake a mineral claim?

Any person 18 years of age or older and duly registered companies may obtain a licence to prospect from the Mining Recorder’s Office at ITI.  The cost of the licence is $5.00 for an individual and $50.00 for a company and all licences must be renewed annually. 

Only a licensee or an individual acting on behalf of  a licensee may stake a mineral claim and submit an application to record the claim or claims. 

How do prospectors and explorers get access to areas they want to stake?

All territorial lands and waters are subject to the concept often referred to as the “Free Entry System.” This means that publicly-owned lands without prior restrictions are open for those wishing to prospect and stake claims.

Access to areas open for staking requires a person to obtain a licence to prospect, obtain a set of claims tags and a mineral claim staking map from the Mining Recorder’s Office.

It is important to remember that, while it is known as a “Free Entry” system, there are many restrictions to accessing areas to stake in the NWT, including privately-owned land or land made unavailable because of land claim negotiations.

Where can I stake and prospect?

Section 5 of the Mining Regulations lists land areas that prohibit prospecting and staking mineral claims from taking place. Otherwise, territorial lands and waters are open for staking claims throughout the Northwest Territories.  

What is a mining lease?

A mining lease grants exclusive rights to mine the subsurface minerals. If the mining lease applicant has complied with all of the regulatory requirements in the Mining Regulations, a mining lease may be issued. A mining lease is valid for 21 years as long as the yearly rentals are paid.

What is the cost to keep a mineral claim in good standing?

The cost for keeping a recorded claim in good standing requires the claim holder to spend $10.00 per hectare doing work on the claim or claims in the first two years from the date the claim or claims were recorded. 

From the third year to the ninth year the claim holder must carry out work of a value of $5.00 per hectare in each of those years. The total expenditure of work must be equal to or greater than $45.00 per hectare.