Mineral Resources Act

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

The Mineral Resources Act has now passed the legislature! To get an idea of the key policies it intends to achieve, click here. For the legislation as-passed, click here

The Mineral Resources Act has been introduced in the Legislative Assembly.

It was drafted with consideration for all feedback received through public and stakeholder engagement, research by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, and conversations with partners from Indigenous governments and Organizations.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has produced an extensive collection of informational material to help understand what is being proposed, the basics of how that could look in practice, and the reasons why those policies were chosen.

The folder titled "Understanding the Proposed Mineral Resources Act" to the right has a series of eight PDFs

The Mineral Resources Act has been introduced in the Legislative Assembly.

It was drafted with consideration for all feedback received through public and stakeholder engagement, research by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, and conversations with partners from Indigenous governments and Organizations.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has produced an extensive collection of informational material to help understand what is being proposed, the basics of how that could look in practice, and the reasons why those policies were chosen.

The folder titled "Understanding the Proposed Mineral Resources Act" to the right has a series of eight PDFs covering the policy intentions of the legislation, and how it fits within the Northwest Territories' larger legal framework.

If you wish to view this information online instead, follow this link.

Guest Book

Do you or your organization have feedback or input you would like to leave based on the Mineral Resources Act Discussion Paper, or any other thoughts on how mining and exploration should be governed in the NWT? Join the discussion and leave your feedback here!

Responses to questions in the Mineral Resources Act discussion paper
Chris O’Brien, 25 November 2017


Q1: How should land access for mineral exploration be dealt with in the proposed MRA?
A: Land access for mineral exploration should be handled within the larger and overriding context of maintaining biological diversity and ecological integrity. A major problem is that at present not all areas of the NWT fall within settled land claims areas, protected areas, areas with land use plans etc. that will give guidance or set limits as to what species or areas of critical habitat need to be protected from mineral exploration activities even at the prospecting stage. The free entry system should not be considered to be a licence for prospectors to go anywhere at any time, nor should it give government the ability to grant prospecting permits or register claims in areas that have yet to be assessed for their environmental and cultural sensitivities or significance. Given the general decline in the NWT’s wildlife populations (in particular caribou), the idea that early exploration activities such as prospecting “have a minimal geographical footprint and little ecological impact” should be re-examined and the rules and regulations changed accordingly.

Q2: Should incentives be offered to encourage exploration? If so, what kinds of incentives could encourage exploration?
A: The idea of the individual prospector going out into the wilderness and discovering the mother lode has a long and fabled history in the North, and in earlier times it was understandable that government would want to encourage such activity. However, the situation is different now. The impacts of all phases of mining development are well known and significant to a greater or lesser degree, and wildlife populations and the ecosystems on which they depend are no longer as robust as they once were, so a more methodical, well-planned and less haphazard approach towards mineral exploration and development needs to be created to ensure that environmental impacts are kept to an absolute minimum. If exploration is still to be encouraged by government, then those individuals and companies involved in exploration must be made to understand by government that such activities will only be undertaken within a carefully planned and controlled regime, and their former freedom of movement and actions are likely to be reduced in comparison to earlier times.

Q3: The Mining Regulations list prohibited lands. Should the process and list be reviewed for the MRA?
A: If the present list of prohibited lands and the process of designating them are to be reviewed for the MRA, both the new process itself and any decisions arising from it to remove presently prohibited lands must be based on solid scientific evidence so that there will be no reduction of ecological protection for such lands, and furthermore there will be increased understanding of and support for why some lands must be prohibited from all phases of mining activities.

Q4: Should lands with high potential for mineral presence or transportation be regulated differently than other areas? For example, to designate special mining zones or transportation corridors?
A: The implication of this question is that ecological protection for lands with high potential for mineral presence should be relaxed in some way during the exploration phase, and perhaps even during later stages of mining development. The term “special mining zone” brings to mind a relaxing of regulatory controls that could eventually result in areas of wasteland incapable of any future ecological function e.g. the huge deposits of “country rock” produced by diamond mining. On the contrary, if special mining zones are to be designated, they should be regulated even more strictly than other lands so that ecological damage caused by intensive exploration and later mining activities can be kept to a minimum.

As for transportation corridors, the term implies the creation of permanent all-season roads, and given their well-known negative ecological impacts, extreme care must be taken in deciding whether they should be built at all, and if so, when and where. If the present proposal for an all-season road through the Slave Geological Province is a typical example of what the GNWT has in mind for transportation corridors to support the mining industry, there will certainly be general resistance to the idea by those dedicated to protecting the ecological heritage of the NWT. To even propose such a corridor through the traditional range of a caribou herd on the edge of extinction gives the impression that the GNWT considers the encouragement and support of future mining development to be more important than maintaining the NWT’s biological diversity and ecological integrity.

Q5: Should the MRA allow for high-potential land to be regulated differently than other under-explored lands in the NWT?
A: Given that high-potential land will likely produce larger and more concentrated areas of exploration and later mining activities, the MRA should allow for high-potential land to be even more strictly regulated than other lands in the NWT.

As for the term “under-explored lands”, it indicates the GNWT’s bias towards mining and other development at the expense of environmental protection and raises the issue of the relative imbalance between the amount of effort and funding put into studying the mineral potential of the NWT and what is available to support research to better understand the NWT’s wildlife populations and ecosystems, and how they can best be protected from the negative impacts of mining and other industrial development. There is the NWT Geological Survey, the one-stop source of geological information for mining developers, but where is the NWT Ecological Survey, an equally well-funded and supported source of all information needed by some government departments, NGOs and other parties to make proper environmental assessments of all mining activities including prospecting, exploration, development, closure and reclamation?


Q1: What are the potential effects of an online map staking system to people and companies that rely on ground staking for income?
A: Obviously, if ground staking is no longer needed with an online map staking system, the people and companies involved in ground staking will lose income. It might be possible that even with the advent of an online staking system, ground staking could be allowed in certain exceptional circumstances, but it seems that an online system would be preferable. The main reason from my point of view to go to an online system is to reduce the environmental impacts of ground staking and in particular, the need to fly equipment and personnel significant distances to staking sites, as well as cutting trees down to make stakes, and also creating cut lines in forested areas. I well remember the diamond staking rush in the early 1990s and the many planes and helicopters used to fly claim stakers and their stakes out to the target areas. I tried to imagine the huge amount of aircraft fuel used and the greenhouse gas emissions produced during the rush, as well as the number of trees cut down to make the stakes. I spent most of the summer of 1993 at Point Lake and was angered to find occasional wooden stakes just lying on the tundra, obviously having been thrown from the open door of a hovering helicopter. What a terribly wasteful process.

Q2: Would online map staking encourage greater exploration activity?
A: It might well do so, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. Mineral exploration, like any other human activity, must be put into the larger context of an overall land use planning process based on the goal of maintaining biodiversity and ecological integrity. This means at the very least that the level of mineral exploration in a particular area will be determined by ecological considerations, for example, the scientifically-determined thresholds of levels of activity that certain species and their supporting ecosystems can withstand, wherever and at whatever times of year. This approach will assume that certain areas of critical habitat must be avoided and, if necessary, permanently protected before any exploration activities are allowed.

Q3: How could the online map staking system encourage active exploration of lands, instead of just holding lands without exploration activity?
A: It should be easy to change the rules so that, if holding lands without exploration activity is truly undesirable, then it can be prohibited. Beyond that, actually encouraging active exploration through an online staking system could be as easy as building carrots and sticks into the system, for example, when the “claim” button is pressed, financial incentives and disincentives are activated based on how much or how little exploration is actually carried out within that claim within certain time frames. This assumes, of course, as I have mentioned above, that any exploration activity is being done within an overall land use planning process based on the goal of maintaining biodiversity and ecological integrity.

Of course, there is another completely different purpose that could be served through an online map staking system, and that is temporarily prohibiting industrial development from areas that could be crucial for the creation of protected areas required to maintain the biodiversity and ecological integrity of a particular area. Similar to how mining exploration companies must show that they are doing work to discover whether the lands within their claims contain economically viable mineral deposits, so those who are staking claims with the intention of creating protected areas will have to show that research being done on the lands they are claiming for possible protection is intended to discover if protecting these lands from mining and other industrial development is indeed essential for the purpose of maintaining the biodiversity and ecological integrity of a particular area.

Q4: What are the considerations for a made-in-the-North custom online map staking system?
A: The most important consideration for a made-in-the-North online map staking system is that such a system should help ensure that mining exploration activity will have the least possible environmental impact. That could be accomplished by tying the system into a comprehensive data base of scientific and traditional ecological knowledge so that the staking process is not carried out (as it is now) in the virtual absence/ignorance of the ecological realities of a particular area of mineral interest.

Q5: Currently, proponents must obtain a Canada Land Survey to apply for a mineral lease. Should this process still be required if the NWT adopted online map staking?
A: Given the accuracy of GPS and satellite photos, it hardly seems necessary for a Canada Land Survey to be done. Particularly if such surveys are actually done on the ground, no longer doing such surveys will also avoid the environmental impacts of flying out to a claimed site, setting up camp etc.


Q1: Should geological data and results be required submissions in order to obtain mining leases?
A: Geological data and other results should be required submissions so that the GNWT can ensure that there is no chance of misinformation or even fraud by companies more bent on pumping up the value of their properties and passing them on to bigger companies than on actually going through with a development process that will truly benefit northern workers and businesses.

Q2: How can we encourage proponents to disclose geological information?
A: Make the disclosure of geological information mandatory. The protection of the people and the environment of the NWT are more important than the supposed need of companies to protect their geological information.

Q3: What other information should ongoing reporting contain?
A: Any information that would help increase understanding of the NWT’s geology should be included in ongoing reporting of exploration activities on mineral claims and leases.

Q4: Does the process of transferring mineral tenure (including prospecting permits, claims, and leases) to other qualified parties require review? If so, what should the review process entail?
A: If the process of transferring mineral tenure is not presently working in the best interests of the people of the NWT, then it should be reviewed in all its facets.

Q5: Should prospectors be required to report on all their planned work yearly?
A: Given that northern wildlife and their habitat are more threatened than ever before, it is no longer reasonable that anybody involved in mining development, even at the prospecting stage, should be allowed to go anywhere at any time without the knowledge of government agencies tasked with protecting wildlife populations, their habitat, and ecological integrity generally. The legend of the rugged prospector roaming the land unhindered in search of the mother lode was born in the days when mainstream society neither knew nor even cared about the environmental impacts of the various phases of mining. Those days are gone.

Q6: Should mineral tenures be revocable if the holder is not investing or advancing them? What would be an acceptable requirement for maintaining a tenure?
A: Revoking a mineral tenure for lack of investment or advancement could be difficult and perhaps even unfair given the different circumstances of the companies involved in mining development in the NWT. However, one requirement should be that a company must prove that its action or inaction is working towards the benefit of the people and the economy of the NWT, and is not threatening wildlife populations or the NWT’s ecological integrity.


Q1: What information needs to be made public to enhance transparency?
A: The description in the MRA discussion paper of what is involved in transparency and public accountability is generally good and covers the range of topics involved. The information that should be made public should help keep the public informed about whether particular mining activities at whatever levels are either protecting or threatening the economic and environmental well-being of the NWT.

Q2: Should there be processes for resolving disputes or appealing decisions? If so, what should be considered in developing the processes?
A: Such processes should be developed for enhancing the economic well-being of the NWT’s public and companies and to ensure the protection of the NWT’s environment.

Q3: Should the Minister be allowed to grant relief from active exploration requirements? If so, under what conditions or circumstances? What should the process include?
A: To ensure there is no undue influence on the Minister so that a company can gain an economic advantage over other companies, there must be consistency in the circumstances under which the Minister will be allowed to grant relief from active exploration requirements. And in no circumstances should relief be granted from any of the environmental regulations that a company is required to adhere to during its operations

Q4: Should the Minister have the power to withdraw lands from staking and re-open lands to staking, and under what circumstances?
A: The Minister should have the power to withdraw lands from staking or re-open them if there are environmental, social or cultural concerns about the impacts of staking in a particular area.

Q5: Reports are confidential in the NWT for three years in order to protect intellectual knowledge for exploration; whereas, property visits are considered confidential for the life of the mineral tenure, unless released by the owner of the mineral claim. Is this the optimal process?
A: If property visits unnecessarily keep important geological knowledge from the NWT public then such visits should be treated in the same way as ordinary reports.


Q1: What could the MRA do to enhance the collection of data to promote accuracy in the geosciences database?
A: Reinstate the position and power of the “engineer of mines” to assess reports and ensure the accuracy and availability of information.

Q2: Should the MRA require disclosure of geological data by lease-holders?
A: Without unduly disadvantaging any particular company, lease-holders should be required to release geological data that would be useful to the government and people of the NWT.

Q3: How should the MRA ensure the accuracy of compliance and taxation data?
A: Create new positions within the GNWT given the authority to enforce the accuracy of compliance and taxation data.

Q4: Who should bear the cost of collecting and verifying reported data?
A: Companies should bear the cost just are they do when required to present information about the assessment of environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Q5: What improvements could be made to the ways the GNWT inspects, monitors and audits resource activities and regulatory compliance?
A: If necessary, the GNWT should create new positions to ensure that there are adequate numbers of qualified GNWT personnel to inspect, monitor and audit resource activities and regulatory compliance.


Q1: Are there gaps in the transfer of rehabilitation liability as a result of transfers of mining rights from one owner to another?
A: The NWT has a long and shameful history of mining companies suddenly disappearing or going bankrupt after they have made their money and leaving government to clean up the mess they have left behind. There must be a closing of any gaps in the transfer of liability from one owner to another to ensure that eventually a full and environmentally appropriate rehabilitation and closure process is completed. A more stringent regime might well deter some companies from pursuing mineral development in the NWT, but at least the companies willing to accept greater financial responsibility are more likely to see the rehabilitation and closure process through to a full and proper end.

Q2: Are there other gaps in closure and rehabilitation legislation that could be addressed by the MRA?
A: Although the supposed aim of the rehabilitation and closure process is “to return the mine site as close as possible to its natural ecosystem or repurpose it for another productive use after mining finishes”, in practice companies have been allowed to leave their mine sites in neither a natural or productive state. The Ekati mine is a good example. Whereas BHP stated that it would leave parts of the mine site in an environmentally productive state, DIAND allowed the company to replace the word “productive” with “stable”, an entirely different and ecologically useless state. This is in essence the same as allowing companies to leave full rehabilitation and closure of a mine up to government and taxpayers. It might not be possible to return a mine site to a fully natural state, but companies should be required to do as much as possible to leave a mine site in a state that is ecologically productive to some degree or other.

Q3: Are there any gaps in the regulation of temporary closures or suspensions in mine operations?
A: Similar to rules for rehabilitation and closure, there must be financial requirements in place to prevent companies from turning a temporary closure or suspension of operations into an outright abandonment of a mine.

Q4: How should the MRA address abandoned mines?
A: Although existing mining companies should not be made entirely responsible for cleaning up the mess left by their predecessors in the NWT, neither should they be entirely relieved of any financial involvement in dealing with the legacy of the earlier history of their industry. The obvious way for the mining industry to take some responsibility for abandoned mines in the NWT is through the creation of an abandoned mines fund that all mining companies pay into as a part of the cost of doing business in the NWT.


Q1: How can the MRA promote dialogue and shared expectations between mining proponents and Indigenous peoples?
A: The MRA should lay out clear procedures and ensure there is adequate time and funding for full and frank dialogue between mining companies and Indigenous people. Too often in the past such dialogue has been rushed and expectations have not been lived up to.

Q2: Are there specific ways to encourage proponents to engage early and frequently with potentially impacted Indigenous communities?
A: Don’t just encourage. Require.


Q1: Should the MRA address benefit agreements (such as SEAs, IBAs) in some way? If so, how?
A: The section of the discussion paper entitled, “Potential MRA approaches to socio-economic benefits” has some good suggestions for how the MRA could address benefit agreements.

Q2: Should the GNWT be involved in the IBA process? Are there ways that government could help Indigenous communities and mining companies [word missing in paper] those agreements?
A: The GNWT should give advice, assistance and financial support to help the IBA process have the best possible outcome for communities and the people of the NWT.

Q3: What are the advantages and disadvantages of making benefit agreements available to the public or otherwise enhancing transparency of those agreements? Is there a role for the MRA to play in regulating agreement confidentiality?
A: There is a role for the MRA to play. It can ensure there is not only transparency in benefit agreement processes, but also prevent companies from intimidating communities into agreeing to keep confidential any terms that are not beneficial to them.

Q4: Is there anything that should be required in all benefit agreements? Should the government focus on creating an optional ‘model agreement’?
A: It has been striking how different some benefit agreements have been from others even though the circumstances were almost identical. The agreements between Indigenous people and BHP and Diavik are good examples, and one can only conclude that some companies are harder negotiators than others, leaving some Indigenous people with less than ideal agreements. Government should indeed create a ‘model agreement’ that, if desired, can be used to ensure that companies deal in fairness with Indigenous people and are prevented from taking advantage of them.

Q5: Should compliance with benefit agreements be a condition to maintaining mineral tenure?
A: Absolutely.


Q1: How should the GNWT best balance public and company fiscal benefits from mining and exploration? In what ways could the MRA address this need?
A: It has been said that the GNWT makes more money from taxes on liquor and cigarettes than from mining royalties. Obviously there is a balance to be found between benefits to NWT society and profits for mining companies. With billions of dollars leaving the NWT in diamond mining profits, it’s strange that the GNWT seems constantly to be financially strapped. One suspects that, particularly with diamond mining, much higher royalties could be collected while the resource still exists. The mining of other minerals are not in the same profit-making league as diamond mining, but the GNWT should not short-change itself. Setting an ambitious but reasonable revenue regime should not scare off companies interested in long-term development projects while at the same time such a regime can help weed out those companies less interested in actually developing mines and more interested in taking advantage of every possible government incentive program. For more detailed analysis of the revenue and tax situation and how the NWT could get more from mining, this recent report is worth a look.

Q2: Should the GNWT consider providing incentives to industry? For example, some jurisdictions have given tax deductions for companies that have conducted progressive rehabilitation, developed “newly discovered” deposits, or exceeded socio-economic requirements. What activities could be encouraged or discouraged?
A: Yes, incentives should be created to do good things like those mentioned in the question, but not incentives just to get as many companies to come to the NWT as possible. There are too many examples of companies that hang around for years but never seem to develop an actual mine, although they might benefit handsomely from the array of existing government incentives.

Q3: What is your opinion of the current level of fees and rentals for services charged under the Mining Regulations?
A: I am not familiar enough with specific details of fees and rentals for services to comment on them, but I suggest that they should be at levels high enough so that companies will treat the services with respect and not take them for granted.

chrisobr over 4 years ago

I'm a little disappointed in the challenge of accessing this site. And the cheerleading of the sector on the ITI webpages. No doubt mining is important to the NWT, but we don't get enough benefit from the sector that we should, as owners of the land, and the land, wildlife and water do pay the cost of non-sustainable resource extraction.

Money earmarked for incentives should be used to diversify our economy, and also to provide training to NWT residents. Currently, mine owners suggest they can't hire enough skilled workers in the NWT, and thus have never filled their obligations to high northern (this is the GNWT's responsibility - money should go here if anywhere).

Secondly, we get so little out of the revenues 4% that we need to rethink the royalty system.

Third, there is very little consideration of climate change and the costs from this to GNWT to manage tailings ponds, roads, and other infrastructure related to mining. Bonds need to significantly increase, because another Giant Mine would bankrupt NWT. There seems to be a new mine go bankrupt every year or two, so mining company claims that things are different now, don't hold water. It is too easy to put a mine in temporary management (for a long time), often allowing big companies to sell to smaller, and smaller companies who then disappear altogether. This must be stopped. Please strengthen this act to protect the land for our kids. Do something innovative to diversify our economy and make us different, not just a place where multinationals come to mine our wealth and leave us with a mess.

CTS over 4 years ago

in order to develop a comprehensive Mineral Resource Act (MRA), the GNWT must develop a comprehensive Mineral's Strategy. The MRA in effect supports the Strategy which contains sustainable growth goals and objectives for the Territory.The demand for our minerals is rising throughout the world and there is a greater interest by mining and exploration companies in the Northwest Territories. In order to attract companies that will develop our mineral resources in a sustainable manner which will be congruent with our environmental and cultural values to promote economic growth, social investment and employment and a well educated work force throughout the north, significant investment in partnership with private and federal funding will be required to lower the cost of entry and bring innovation and long term benefits to the NWT.

Promoting wider exploration, mining and processing which up until now has been a footnote, will bring investment and greater demands. This should not be seen as a short term venture and will require vision and leadership and a long term commitment by all levels of government including aboriginal governments, in particular communities and their community governments that are expected to grow alongside the mining sector. The expectation is that these communities will become attractive environments resulting in less need for fly in - fly out workforce which currently exist today.

In order to achieve this strategy the GNWT must establish the Vision and Mission statements with Key Strategic objectives such as:

"The GNWT mineral strategy is committed to the long sustainable development and exploitation of it's mineral resources with consideration for it's social, ecological and cultural legacy. The strategy will ensure that the Northwest Territories become and strengthen it's position in North America as the Canada's leading mining region."

Key Objectives:

1. Strong Relationships, dialogue and co-operation to promote growth and innovation

2. Sustainable development in congruence with Environment & Cultural values

3. Infrastructure framework for growth and worldwide competitiveness

4. Innovation and Training development and framework to provide a solid skills and R&D base for mining

5. The attraction and promotion of capital investment

Further actions are to be developed from the objectives along with goals and key performance indicators.

On then will the MRA be revised in support of the Strategy.

Jason Snaggs over 4 years ago

A note –the term Commissioner’s Land is used here to refer to those lands now administered by the Department of Lands, that is, lands subject to the Commissioner’s Land Act and the Territorial Lands Act on the assumption that all of those lands are now subject to the authority of the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

- Agree that new legislation is needed because all that the current Mining Regulations does is repeat the pre-Devolution federal approach, as an artefact of the haste for transition during Devolution. It’s been 3 years since Devolution but unfortunately the Discussion Paper does not offer the opportunity to re-think the existing scheme.

- The paper is disappointing – all it proposes is modernizing and updating the current regime, not discussing what’s in the public interest – apparently that’s assumed to be historical forms of economic development. That’s not unexpected, since the host department, Industry Trade and Investment, is the Government of the Northwest Territories’ main proponent of economic development, and by default therefore, an industry proponent. The Government needs to have a strong industry proponent, but that function is not served by the conflict faced in regulating the industry.

- There needs to be a much deeper discussion about mining exploration and development within the context of wider Territorial ambitions with respect to land use, reconciliation, traditional knowledge, the settlement of land claims, framing the rights of land owners relative to the interests of developers generally, and regulatory efficiency or economies of scale with respect to regulatory activities.

- The first clue about the quality of the paper is the jargon, in particular, use of the word “legacy” referring to the significant financial, ecological and social costs of many historical mining developments in the Northwest Territories. “The word “legacy” connotes a benefaction, not contamination. USE A DICTIONARY. In land use terms, those sites are “brownfields” and non-contaminated land tenures should be referred to as either existing claims or leases or other form of occupation permission.

- The second clue is the failure of the paper to discuss the Shattler decision as an example of some of the key problems of the current legislative regime. Those knowledgeable about mining law in the Northwest Territories will recall that the Shattler decision focused on the troubling overlap of the Commissioner’s Land Act, which had granted a land lease to the Town of Inuvik for a gravel quarry, and the ability of the Mining Recorder to issue a permit to an Inuvik citizen to prospect and prove a mining claim within the gravel quarry, ostensibly to prove a gold deposit but, as the Court found, to use the permit as a ruse to steal gravel from the rightful quarry owner, and sell it, effectively going into competition with the Town of Inuvik.

- There are troubling aspects to the regime proposed by the Discussion Paper. Here are a few:

o The regulation of mining will be maintained in the Department of Industry, Trade and Investment, the same government department that promotes mining. This is a prima facie conflict of interest – how can the members of the public have any confidence that the government department that promotes mining can regulate the very activity it promotes? The paper does not even break down the components of the current Mining Regulations and discuss how the proposed legislation will deal with operational considerations.

o The current Mining Regulations has two primary aspects – land use, with respect to prospecting, development, operations, closure and remediation – and the other main aspect, royalties. Apparently no consideration has been given to the notion of efficiency and administrative expertise (economies of scale) with respect to land use, relative to royalties and government’s role in promoting mining. These two aspects are fundamentally different, and, under no circumstances should remain in the same legislation.

- In putting forward the position it does, the paper effectively recommends keeping the organizational status quo, which prevents a cohesive and coordinated Northwest Territories approach to land use.

- The historic notion, still in place in many Canadian jurisdictions (which, unfortunately, the Discussion Paper refers to as best practices in other Canadian jurisdictions), is that mining is “special” and “different” from other types of land use (industrial or commercial), and that is simply false, and resists modern approaches to land use planning.

- The philosophical underpinning of the historic approach is that all lands outside of settled urban areas not set aside for agricultural use is “hinterland,” unoccupied and not used for recognized development, and therefore available for any sort of economic development. The historical evolution of this philosophy is, at best, colonial, and at worst, racist, in its failure or refusal to recognize that the lands were occupied for thousands of years and used as the sustainable foundation of indigenous cultures. The historical approach does not take into consideration traditional knowledge, a critical factor in developing sustainable land use. Even modern theories and practices of land use planning do not take into account traditional knowledge, and this failure inevitably will result in the disruption of sensitive ecosystems with long-term negative effects.

- Continuing with this historical approach flies in the face of the Government of the Northwest Territories’ commitment to reconciliation. Reconciliation, especially with respect to land use, requires a coordinated, sophisticated level of understanding of land use, consultation and collaboration with First Nations. There is an opportunity for the Northwest Territories to be a leader in Canada in fashioning and implementing land use policies that facilitate reconciliation.

- The task of fashioning and implementing land use policies that not only facilitate reconciliation, but also ameliorate land use policies, is most efficiently housed in one government department where a cadre of subject experts in land use law and policy can be created. In recent years, the Negotiations unit, now housed within the Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs, worked very effectively with the Commissioner’s Land unit, to negotiate with various indigenous land claim organizations to withdraw lands, to facilitate land claim negotiations. The Commissioner’s Land unit also concluded a memorandum of understanding among the Territorial Government, the Gwich’in and the Town of Inuvik with respect to the management of land in the Inuvik area.

- Although the Department of Lands is in the early stages of transitioning its legislation from historical Northwest Territories Commissioner’s lands and federal Territorial lands, there is already a degree of subject expertise within that Department with respect to the management of land use and associated regulatory instruments, such as the assessment and levying of performance securities, inspections and tenure enforcement. Developing that subject expertise, and working in collaboration with Negotiations and other government departments, could form the basis of a unit possessing the requisite expert legal and policy knowledge to effectively manage land use in the Northwest Territories, with the added benefit of meeting economies of scale.

- There is also a small but growing number of privately held lands, and one need look no further than to the disastrous legal history in Alberta (and elsewhere) of ranchers and farmers, surface rights holders, coming into conflict with sub-surface industrial developers. The Surface Rights Board Act is administered by the Department of Lands, but the paper contains not even one mention of the existence of that legislation and how it would operate, relative to the proposed Mineral Resources Act.

- Failure to separate the land use components in the Mining Regulations and situate those regulatory components within the context of the Commissioner’s Land Act and consequential legislation such as regulations, codes of practise, etc., will result in more cases like Shattler, to say nothing of imperilling other stated Territorial policies of reconciliation and facilitating the settlement of land claims and self-government.

- The other aspect of the paper – socio-economic benefits and revenues, are appropriate for stand-alone legislation enabling the Government of the Northwest Territories to enter into socio-economic agreements, and to assess, set and collect royalties, not only with respect to mining, but also to other forms of commercial and industrial activities.

- The Department of Industry, Trade and Investment has a critical role in encouraging and supporting mining and other industrial investment in the Northwest Territories. Building that subject expertise within that Department would be easier and more efficient without the distraction of consultation and enforcement of land use legislation and policies which are more properly situated in the Department of Lands.

- The paper does refer to the curtailed role the Government of the Northwest Territories can play, relative to the authorities still held by the Government of Canada through the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. Perhaps consideration should be given to negotiating the end of that statute, with the concomitant transfer of authority to the Government of the Northwest Territories.

In summary, the Government of the Northwest Territories, in putting forward the Discussion Paper, offers the promise of reform of mining legislation in the Northwest Territories. It would be a shame to waste scarce resources by only modernizing the old federal legislation without carefully examining other critical public policy factors, most especially how land use for the various stages of mining development mesh with existing and stated government policy objectives of regulatory efficiency with respect to land use generally, reconciliation and the settlement of land claims. We need a truly made-in the Northwest Territories approach to mining development, one that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the historical approaches to mining development. That will require a great deal more work on the part of the Territorial government.

Emerald Murphy over 4 years ago

“The exploration for mineral deposits and the development of mines is a risky global pursuit because the majority of exploration efforts are unsuccessful.”

It was disheartening to read this comment from the section titled “Current State of Mining” on Page 9 of the MRA Discussion Paper. One ill chosen word serves to portray most exploration projects as poorly planned and badly executed, suggesting they are wasteful of money, time and energy on a global scale. Hopefully this was simply an oversight by the author(s) but it may have come across as insulting to anyone that engages in exploration. Few would ever say most medical research that fails to find a cure for cancer is unsuccessful in effort.

Exploration, by definition, means to study and learn about things unknown and hitting dead ends is a very real part of the process. But the data that is gathered while reaching those dead ends is immensely important, as it can inform future understanding, study and exploration. Just like medical research that does not find a cure, many exploration projects do not lead to discovery of a mine but it is the outcome that is unsuccessful, not necessarily the efforts of the search.

More importantly, the success of everyone’s efforts in life, whether it be curing cancer or engaging citizens on the new MRA, depends heavily on mined resources. Exploration and mining are not ‘risky global pursuits’ without some ultimate purpose and are valuable to our lives, no matter how begrudgingly so many are to accept that fact. Out of necessity or want, we all use resources daily.

Rhonda Buckland almost 5 years ago