A long awaited bill which will promises to transform the mineral industry for the NWT is set to be tabled for the first time this week.
Wally Schumann, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Minister of Infrastructure told guests at a Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce luncheon that the Mineral Resources Act is set to be tabled this week with the hopes of passing first and second reading.
“The proposed act will be the NWT’s first standalone, made-in-the-North mining law,” Schumann told guests. “It will be among one of the most significant of legislation considered by the NWT legislative assembly since devolution and if passed will be unlike anything else that exists across the country.”
The third session of the 18th legislative assembly will reconvene, Tuesday, but there was no indication on which day the legislation would be tabled.
If the bill passes first and second reading as planned this week, it is expected to go to the Standing Committee of Economic Development and Environment. Committee members will then tour the North and consult for 120 days before deliberation takes place again in the House with the Committee of the Whole. This would tentatively mean that the final bill would be passed in late summer or early fall and before the Oct. 1 GNWT election.
Schumann and his department promised more details later in the week, but the minister said the tabled bill will encompass years of research as well as months of public consultation that has gone into creating an act that aims to help boost the mineral industry on a number of fronts. Most significantly, Schumann said the act will “mark the end of the territory’s use of federal regulations that no longer responds to the expectations of our residents or the realities of doing businesses in North.”
Other elements include putting in measures that will attract and retain mining companies in the North, require that companies to make socio-economic agreements with Northern governments so that there will be benefits to Northerners, spelling out how socio-economic agreements are to be conducted between mineral companies and Indigenous communities, improving transparency between industry and Northern governments- especially with Indigenous governments, reducing uncertainty for mineral companies wishing to work in the NWT, modernizing how minerals are staked in the NWT, and clarifying other aspects of the current mining practices in the North. Schumann said other improvements will benefit industry including greater protections for commercial confidentiality and more clarity on engagement expectations throughout mineral extraction cycles.
Schumann said while the Mineral Resources Act will be a big step toward improving the GDP of the NWT, it will be only part of the North’s needs.
“This is only one piece of what we need to do to move our territory forward since devolution,” Schumann said. “We know to continue to move this file forward we need some significant investment from the federal government.”
He said some successes have been done including bilateral agreements signed and announcements from the federal government worth over a billion dollars last year. However much more is needed, he said.
“It is still way too short of where we need to be,” he said.
“If we move our GDP, it will move the GDP of the whole country. People need to understand that.”