North America’s Forgotten Frontier: Canadian Arctic – by Diane Francis (The Huffington Post – September 18, 2013)

YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES — This charming lakeside town bustles as thousands of Japanese tourists come annually to view the spectacular Aurora Borealis lights and as workers in mining, construction and energy arrive to cash in on its boom.

I was invited to speak at the Prospects North 2013 conference sponsored by the NWT Chamber of Commerce and I also visited the Diavik Diamond mine, the biggest of three gigantic mines nearly 400 miles north of Yellowknife. These mines, and another to open soon, are why the Northwest Territories has become the third biggest diamond producer in the world.

The conference was organized by executive director Mike Bradshaw and well-attended by policy, political and business leaders. My message was simply that the territories needed a new metaphor. They are not isolated and helpless political jurisdictions. They must think of themselves as the world’s biggest mining and resource play.

The three — NWT, Yukon and Nunavut — are bigger than Australia and have only seven operating mines now. Another 20 mines are in advanced stages of pre-development approvals and hundreds more undiscovered ore bodies exist in the frozen north. Such mature projects and exploration must be their top priority — as the world’s biggest mining play — and will usher in an unprecedented amount of prosperity and the building of essential infrastructure.

“BY 2020, our GDP will double and we will have several new mines, one diamond, two gold mines, one zinc mine and two lead-zinc mines,” said NWT Premier Robert McLeod in his office in Yellowknife. Imagine what twice that many mines would mean to the Territory and the North.

His prediction doesn’t include the economic development that will result from a discovery of oil from shale and the huge hydro-electric potential in the Northwest Territories, bigger than Quebec’s James Bay or B.C. Hydro’s. The oil, light and valuable, can be developed within a few years — like the Bakken in North Dakota and Saskatchewan — but the development of dams may take a decade or more.

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