Good afternoon, and thank you Louise for that kind introduction. To begin, I want to recognize the Canadian Mining Association for its continued commitment to making Canada a global leader in the mining sector, particularly as we face shifting patterns of growth and energy demand internationally.
As Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor, I am pleased to be here today to talk about the important contribution responsible resource development can make to a sustainable and prosperous future for Canada’s North.
We are reaching unprecedented levels of mineral exploration across the North. Last year the total value of mineral exploration in Canada’s three territories was estimated at $914 million, up over 80 percent from the previous year. And this year it is likely to exceed $1 billion.
Over the next 10 years, it is quite possible that we will see over 30 exploration projects come forward. In the last decade, 11 projects went through the environmental assessment process. The tripling of projects going forward might be a conservative estimate -- if all of the exploration currently underway in the territories translates into new mining development.
The Harper Government sees this mineral exploration and development in Canada’s three territories as an enormous opportunity for the future prosperity of our country.
To foster this potential, we are taking concrete steps to streamline regulatory review processes, support targeted Northern research, invest in skills and capacity development, and support business development for Northerners, particularly Inuit and First Nations.
As part of Economic Action Plan 2012, our plan for Responsible Resource Development will help to make Canada a great place to do business. Under this initiative we are taking steps to make regulatory reviews more predictable and timely, while balancing our high standards of environmental protection and to make more meaningful engagement with our unique partnership of Government and Aboriginal groups.
This is our commitment to making Canada – and the North – a more welcoming climate for investment.
In Canada’s North, the Yukon stands out as a mining- friendly territory because of its recent streamlining of the regulatory process.
The Fraser Institute has ranked the Yukon as one of the top 10 jurisdictions favourable to mineral exploration in the world. The Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Review Board – the YESAB has been called the closest thing to a one window regulatory system in Canada.
We are committed to working towards streamlining the regulatory process in all jurisdictions across the country.
In the Northwest Territories, for example, we have started work to streamline the four lands and water management boards now operating in the Mackenzie Valley into a single management board.
In Nunavut, the proposed Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act is designed to improve the ability of governments to manage land and resource development in Nunavut.
In Canada’s North, there are currently 11 projects undergoing environmental assessment, which represent 3,000 jobs and $8 billion in capital investment. A more efficient and predictable review process will ensure Northerners benefit from this development sooner rather than later.
In my own department, CanNor, we are working with industry, territorial organizations and Aboriginal communities to support sustainable development that contributes to long term prosperity for all Canadians.
Key to CanNor’s efforts is the Northern Projects Management Office, which offers single-window “pathfinder” and troubleshooting services for industry undertaking major projects in Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
NPMO provides advice and assistance from exploration to decommissioning. It is mandated to help industry identify potential issues before they arise and coordinate the work of federal regulators to avoid overlap and duplication.
The Harper Government has shown our continued commitment to major mining development in Economic Action Plan 2012 by extending the 15 percent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for investors for an additional year. And we have renewed the Diamond Valuation and Royalty Assessment Program with $12.3 million over two years.
Just recently our Government invested $3 million in a new Major Resource and Energy Development Fund in partnership with the Nunavut Resources Corporation. This fund will support the financing, construction and management of the regional infrastructure needed by mining companies to support their projects in the Kitikmeot region.
Responsible resource development in the North is about Canadians, Northerners, and people in communities benefiting from the resources the land provides while effectively protecting the environment
Our Government is committed to ensuring that Northerners can benefit from and participate in the development of the resource sector. CanNor has made strategic investments across all territories to support capacity building and Aboriginal business development to ensure Northern participation in major resource projects.
Through our Aboriginal Economic Development programs, we help Aboriginal communities and organizations to create and expand local businesses. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced $27 million to improve adult basic education across the three territories.
The $5 million Skills and Partnerships Fund is designed to increase Aboriginal participation in the Canadian labour market, by ensuring sustainable employment. The latest intake of trainees earlier this year, focused on developing job skills for the mining and energy projects we see unfolding across the country and in the North.
Strong partnerships with industry are important to building a sustainable resource sector. Mining companies such as Agnico-Eagle and Canadian Zinc are taking steps to assist in training Northern workers through partnerships with northern colleges and territorial governments. We know BHP, Rio Tinto and De Beers work to ensure that Aboriginal people are well-represented in their workforce and contracting opportunities.
It is no secret that the mining sector is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginal Canadians, supporting Aboriginal employment, business and community development.
We applaud your proactive approach to ensuring local communities benefit from resource development.
Together, these government and industry initiatives are helping Inuit, Northerners and First Nations to become active participants and partners in resource development.
Under Canada’s Northern strategy our Government has made also made investments to support scientific research and capacity building to ensure Northern participation in major resource projects. Our Government recognizes that targeted research is key to sustainable economic development in the North.
The Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay will support top scientists who will provide a clear picture of the state of the environment. This research complements other Government of Canada initiatives such as the Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment and the $10 million investment in the Nunavut Research Institute located in Iqaluit.
In collaboration with our territorial partners our Government has also invested almost $14 million in accurate, reliable geo-science data and research across the three territories and an additional $100 million towards the geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals program.
The data gathered from this geo-science research can lead to new resource discoveries -- and ultimately create new jobs, business opportunities and wealth for Northerners and all Canadians.
You can see from this impressive list of investments that our Government is doing everything it can to ensure growth, job creation and long term prosperity for all Canadians.
From support for local businesses and training for local workers to focused research and NPMO’s single-window service for smoother review processes, our Government is committed to working with industry, territorial and community partners to develop our vast resources responsibly.
Commodity prices are strong and the scope of mining development in the North has never been better. I believe we are at a point where Canada’s North has the potential to become an engine for economic growth for the entire country and a world class destination for the mining sector.
This will require effort, commitment and partnerships. The Harper Government is pleased to be working with the Mining Association of Canada and its members to foster jobs and economic prosperity in the North -- and across Canada.