Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.
Miners rejoice! The Canadian government understands the enormous potential of developing natural resources in the Arctic.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his annual pilgrimage to the North this week, including a stop at Agnico-Eagle’s Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake, NU. He told miners and guests, “Development of the North’s awesome resource potential is a national economic challenge which could yield enormous national economic benefits. The primary beneficiaries will be Northerners themselves, but the wealth generated here will create jobs and opportunities for Canadians all across the country.”
Since the Harper government was first elected in 2006, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in development of the North. Some of the money has gone into the GEM geo-mapping program, better to understand where resources might be found. And this week the feds committed $230,000 over three years to support an office in Iqaluit for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Knowing that the Canadian government supports mineral development is important to all sectors of the mineral industry. Not since John Diefenbaker has a federal government put the North near the top of its agenda. Occasionally the past 30 years the federal government has said it wants to bolster Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic. It was a theme that was long on wanting and short on doing. Now that trend is reversing.
The Canadian government announced last week that it has about half a billion dollars to put into development of a prototype snowmobile capable of operating in a stealth mode. The idea is that troops could be moved quickly and quietly through the North to back up this country’s claim to Arctic sovereignty.
The federal government finally realizes and supports the wealth creating aspects of the mining industry in the North. Private development that shares the wealth with local communities is now recognized as important to the goal of a Canadian North. Thankfully the Arctic has the resources that can be profitably developed.
Mining in the North is not without its detractors. A certain number of people will always be opposed to development because they fear environmental damage. To them Harper replied that the benefits of responsible development outweigh the relatively small environmental footprint of individual projects.
The mineral industry has always known this and has spent decades engineering cleaner, safer means of mining and processing. That the Prime Minister is of the same opinion is one of the best things to happen to mining in many years.