The lineup for the 49th annual Geoscience Forum was announced this week and for the second year in a row, the event will be held virtually.
The NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, the GNWT Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and the Northwest Territories Geological Survey host the forum every year to bring together industry leaders and members of the community. Many discussions centre around the science and economy of mineral resource development in the North.
Topics on the agenda this year — from Nov. 24 to 26 — include geoscience and exploration, diamond geology and exploration, energy in Canada’s North, environmental monitoring and research, changing permafrost landscapes, community engagement and education, regulatory and policy updates, mining and advanced project updates and critical minerals geology and exploration.
Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said due to the high risk of Covid-19, it made more sense to hold the event virtually again. He pointed out that while it’s better to engage in person, the chamber wanted to avoid taking a risk and having to cancel altogether.
The Yukon Chamber of Mines was forced to scrap its planned, in-person annual Geoscience Forum and Trade Show from Nov. 20 to 23 because of a Covid state of emergency, Hoefer added.
“We sort of took a safer route after seeing that Covid was just way too unpredictable from the outbreak a few months ago,” he said. “We went with the virtual event and sort of upped the game from the one last year.”
Among the keynote speakers will be Jerry Asp, CEO and chair of Global Indigenous Development Trust and Canadian Mining Hall of Fame inductee, who will give a presentation on Nov. 24 called The Tahltan Story — From Affluence to Poverty to Affluence.
Premier Caroline Cochrane, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Caroline Wawzonek and Ken Armstrong, president of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, will be featured guests during a Nov. 25 fireside chat.
“I think that’s going to be interesting, given what we’ve been through here in this past year,” Hoefer said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what their projections are for the future. I think they’ve got something interesting to say there, particularly on Ekati and on how to extend mine life.”
The event will also have updates from the territory’s four advancing projects: Prairie Creek, Pine Point, the NICO deposit and Nechalacho.
Hoefer said that the forum should have broader appeal to the general public as past events tended to include numerous presentations that were highly technical in nature.
“One of the core, foundation pieces for the Geoscience Forum is our more technical talks, where people speak about very specific things like specific mineralogy of deposits and that kind of thing,” he said. “I think with this one there are a lot more speakers that are going to be of interest to people in the community. People want to know what’s going on with such-and-such a mine or what its future is or want to know if a certain mine is going to be built.”
Ultimately, the chamber hopes that the forum-goers can take away a feeling of hopefulness with regards to the future of the mineral sector in the NWT.
“I hope the public realizes that we’re not down and out,” Hoefer said of the mineral industry. “We’ve got people often talking about a maturing diamond industry, for example, but in fact, we’ve got lots of potential in diamonds. Now with critical minerals, we’ve got a whole other big basket that’s opening up.
“We’ve got huge potential up here.”