NWT Passes First Made-in-the-North Mineral Resource Act

On the eve of the NWT election, in late August the outgoing 18th Legislative Assembly passed the territory’s first ever, Mineral Resources Act (MRA).

In the words of outgoing Premier Bob McLeod, the homegrown MRA sets out for the first time ever, “how the Government of the Northwest Territories will manage the rich reserves of mineral resources we share, in line with the views and priorities of Northern decision-makers.” 

Those decision makers made a significant new change in the MRA, one that legislates the requirement for both socio-economic agreements and impact benefit agreements prior to development. 

Currently, it is the Territorial Lands Act (TLA) that enables the creation of comprehensive mining regulations for acquiring and maintaining mineral tenure, and for calculating and collecting royalties. The newly-passed MRA will soon replace the TLA in doing the same task. New provisions will also allow for on-line, or map, staking – a modern approach sought by the Chamber of Mines to make it easier, less expensive and safer to acquire mineral tenure. The MRA also allows government to create zones to encourage mining development in some areas, and temporarily restrict it others.

The biggest change in the MRA sees the addition of a new “Part 5

– Benefits for People and Communities”, which will legally require mining projects to negotiate socio-economic agreements with public government, and benefit agreements with Indigenous governments. 

Since mines already voluntarily negotiate benefit agreements with Indigenous governments and they sign socio-economic agreements under environmental approval processes, the Chamber of Mines made the case it wasn’t required in the Act. The Chamber also identified wording in the MRA to remove uncertainty, and offered some innovative ideas on how changes to the Act could further improve community benefits. While the Legislature made some last minute improvements for clarity, they have maintained the legal requirements for socio-economic and benefit agreements. 

Next steps? 

Significant work is now required on new regulations, and until they are substantially completed, the GNWT will not make the MRA law. Thus, the current mining regulations will prevail for now. Commitments have been made to consult with the minerals industry and others as they develop the regulations, a process which will likely take several years. The Chamber will work closely with both the GNWT and with Indigenous governments to ensure that the regulations and MRA add to both investor confidence and to benefits for communities. MN

Canada Unveils Long-Term Vision for the North

  In September, the Government of Canada unveiled its long awaited Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, to replace the previous Northern Strategy launched by Canada in 2007. 

  Northerners, including those in industry, have been hoping for a new strategy with vision – and importantly with the resources to do the work – to help advance and improve life in the North by addressing its many issues and challenges, better harnessing its people and resource potential, and empowering the North to be a stronger contributor to Canada. 

  The new Framework meets the test for long term, with a strategic vision to guide the Government of Canada’s activities and investments in the Arctic to 2030 and beyond. Its Vision: Strong, self-reliant people and communities working together for a vibrant, prosperous and sustainable Arctic and Northern region at home and abroad, while expressing Canada’s enduring Arctic sovereignty. How will it do it? By setting eight overarching and interconnected goals:

• Canadian Arctic and Northern Indigenous peoples are resilient and healthy;
• Strengthened infrastructure that closes gaps with other regions of Canada;

• Strong, sustainable, diversified and inclusive local and regional economies;
• Knowledge and understanding guides decision-making; 
• Canadian Arctic and Northern ecosystems are healthy and resilient;
• The rules-based international order in the Arctic responds effectively to new challenges and opportunities;
• The Canadian Arctic and North and its people are safe, secure and well-defended; and 
• Reconciliation supports self-determination and nurtures mutually-respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. 

  In addition, the Framework partners with territorial and Indigenous governments by including their own aspirational chapters. From an industry perspective, investments in infrastructure to improve access and lower costs are much needed and long overdue. Continued investments in communities and residents will also help increase Northern people capacity and capture more benefits from resource development. 

  The test of the Framework’s effectiveness will come with well-funded action plans, which Northerners now await eagerly with the completion of the recent Federal election. MN

NorZinc Awaits Final Road Permits – The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board (MVLWB) has issued draft permits for the All Season Road (ASR) to Nor Zinc’s 100%-owned high grade zinc-lead-silver Prairie Creek Mine. 
In addition, Parks Canada has also distributed their draft permits to government agencies and other parties for review and comments. The proposed ASR route traverses land regulated by both MVLWB and Parks Canada. 
Comments from all reviewers and responses from the company have all since been recieved, with the final ASR permits expected to be issued to NorZinc in late 2019. MN

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