Cautious optimism and renewed commitment to a struggling mineral industry highlighted the closing of the 47th Geoscience Forum Thursday night with the NWT Max Awards Excellence in Mining and Exploration.
The awards gala, held at the Explorer Hotel, was sold out with 220 people in attendance.
The keynote speaker this year was Bruce Anderson, chair of polling and market research firm Abacus Data. He presented a reassuring view of Canadian attitudes toward the mining and natural resource extraction sector as well as increasing interest in North development.
Throughout his presentation, Anderson showed numbers relating to changing media consumption patterns, rising and falling support for federal and American politicians, and changing social trends concerning the environment, capitalism and diversity and inclusion.
Anderson said some of his polling data show that while Canadians – especially younger ones – are becoming increasingly skeptical of their place within the capitalistic economy, there is evidence to suggest they are not as opposed to the mineral industry or oil and gas extraction as many believe.
“Sometimes it feels as though if you are in the extraction industry, Canadians are radical environmentalists,” he said. “But that is not so. The fact that people are concerned about environmental protection and the fact that concerns about climate change are growing, sit along side the fact that only 11 per cent would consider themselves ardent environmentalists.”
He said Canadians are increasingly concerned about climate change, but still appreciate the utility of oil and minerals with things like good jobs and useful products, even as politicians often exacerbate divisions that stem from these sectors.
“They have very pragmatic opinions about oil,” he said of the public, adding that most consistently support the Trans Mountain Pipeline extension in Alberta, but expect technological leadership to find climate solutions.
He showed that people are uncertain about the future of mining and can be unaware of the full positive aspects of the industry because they don’t have access to the information. He said it is up to mining companies to provide the information to reassure those who are uninformed.
“If there are problems in public opinion that come to be visited upon the mining sector, it isn’t because people don’t like mining companies or don’t believe in the value of the metals produced by these companies. It’s not because they don’t think they provide good jobs or products.
“It is to some degree a question of what people don’t know…. where most people don’t live.”
Premier Cochrane and Minister Nokleby
The evening also featured guest speakers Premier Caroline Cochrane and Industry, Tourism and Investment and Minister Katrina Nokleby, who both sent strong signals that their new government will be an ally of the mineral industry over the next four years.
“All of us here recognize the history of the Northwest Territories cannot be separated from mining and exploration,” Cochrane said.
“Those looking to support and advance responsible and ethical mineral development in the NWT have an ally in my office.”
Cochrane said she recognizes that the industry is struggling and said the GNWT will increase resource exploration and development, make strategic infrastructural investments and reduce the cost of power.
“In the next four years we are going to do all we can do to create prosperity for all the residents of the Northwest Territories in big and small communities,” she said.
Nokleby, who by trade is a mining engineer, said a strong territory is dependent on a strong mineral sector.
“In order to realize (the full potential of the NWT economy) we need a solid foundation of resource development with geoscience research at its core,” she said. “Mining in particular will give our territory the economic strength to build our vibrant, diverse global economies across the board.”
Nokleby also launched an awards presentation that saw six new recipients celebrated. They included the following:
Distinguished Service Award – Walt Humphries
Economic Leadership Award – Det’on Cho Management LP
Environmental Responsibility Award – Newmont Goldcorp Corporation
Indigenous Achievement Award – Shayne Paul
Special Achievement Award – Hilary Jones
Honorary Achievement Award – Bob McLeod
Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, stated in an email Friday that the awards dinner and its turnout was a “very satisfying” end to a week-long Geoscience Forum involving 740 registered participants.
“We had lots of presentations filling our time slots, and we had about 90 booths (at the trade show), so it was a bit better than last year,” he stated.
He stated learning about the award winners and and human side of those who participate in the mineral industry “was very heart warming, as they are all people and/or companies who have a passion for what they do, and very much like working in an around the minerals industry.”
More photos from the evening