Draft target of 40% will damage territory’s already struggling minerals industry, says chamber vice-president
The N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines says it is “deeply concerned” with an “outrageous” suggestion from the N.W.T. government that as much as 40 per cent of land in the territory be set aside for conservation, but the government says that worry is premature.
“We appreciate their concerns. The document is stamped ‘DRAFT,'” says Michael Miltenberger, minister of Environment and Natural Resources.
Miltenberger’s department circulated a draft plan on N.W.T. conservation areas earlier this month to environmental groups (the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Tides Canada), aboriginal groups, the chamber of mines and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
The plan proposes “a target of 40 per cent in conservation areas in the N.W.T.” Miltenberger says only half of that land would be shut off to companies; the other half, only potentially so.
“Up to 20 per cent would be other conservation designations, all of which would allow, potentially, some kind of…industrial development, if it was found appropriate and if [companies] found something worth developing.”
Currently, just over nine per cent of N.W.T. land is completely off-limits to companies.
Miltenberger says the plan is just a draft, and may not be finalized until after the Nov. 23 territorial election. But the chamber of mines says the mere suggestion of significantly upping the amount of protected land “will seriously damage the N.W.T.’s already struggling minerals industry” and scare off investment.
“Essentially they’re telling industry we’re not open for business,” says Gary Vivian, a vice-president with the chamber.
“Once something is put in writing or something gets put on a map, it’s almost impossible to get that removed. It becomes ingrained in people’s minds that that’s the way things are going to be.”
A ‘biased’ draft plan
The chamber says it was outnumbered by environmental groups and aboriginals groups during consultations leading to release of the draft plan. It’s asking that the plan, which it says is “heavily biased towards conservation,” be withdrawn.
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