New data out of the Slave Geological Province led to small staking surge this year.

At 184 claims (totalling 1,390 square kilometres) staked in the Northwest Territories, the number has more than doubled that of 2016, according to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of mines called this year’s uptick in claims “surprising.”

Last year, 83 claims amounting to 42,404 hectares were staked in NWT.

According to the department, 34 claims were staked over one two-week period this summer.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, believes most of those claims were staked in the Gahcho Kue area.

The increase in claims is thanks, in part, to a rise in commodity prices over the last year, said Hoefer in an interview Tuesday.

“Exploration’s been in doldrums for the last four years,” he said.

“We’ve been waiting for a change in the marketplace that would drive the ability for explorers to raise money and get out and first off, stake claims, and then conduct exploration.”

In his view however, the higher number of claims staked this year doesn’t amount to a rush.

“It’s surprising activity,” said Hoefer, “but a rush would be a lot bigger than that … What (the GNWT) saw was a number of claims being staked, which is gratefully accepted here in the North, but when compared to what’s happened in the past, it’s a far cry from where they should be.”

The uptick in claims followed the release of two geophysical reports of the Slave Geological Province by the NWT Geological Survey on June 22.

The Slave Geological Province is known for high diamond potential and is already home to three major, operational diamond mines: Diavik, Gahcho Kue, and Ekati.

With the recent closures of Cantung and Snap Lake mines, and Diavik mine set to cease operations in 2025, Hoefer said the territory will need new mines to bring back those lost jobs.

For example, 1,150 jobs are tied to the Diavik mine.

Two mines on the drawing board right now in the territory, NICO and Prairie Creek, will each employ 220 workers.

“It’s going to take five of those mines to equal one Diavik,” said Hoefer. “So we need to have more exploration.”

A core library like the one that opened Friday in Yellowknife is a start, he said, but the government could take more drastic action to spark a true staking rush.

One thing the federal and territorial governments could do to boost exploration, Hoefer suggested, is to settle Indigenous land claims.

Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann was encouraged by the rise in numbers.

“The mini-staking rush demonstrates that there is an ongoing, strong interest in this important region,” he stated on Friday.

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