The GNWT’s travelling consultation on a mineral resources act stopped down in Hay River on Sept. 11.
But unlike consultations in other communities, this one was attended by Wally Schumann, MLA for Hay River South and the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).
“This is the only one I’m participating in,” he said. “The trouble with going to these types of functions is people tend to focus on the minister, ask the minister questions, instead of participating in what’s going on.”
Schumann said he chose to participate in Hay River because he is an MLA from the town.
“It’s to touch base with the community, see who’s interested in participating in this engagement and hear what they have to say,” he said.
Schumann said people are generally supportive of mining in the NWT.
“For the most part, a lot of people are using this as an opportunity actually to educate themselves around the legislation a bit, because there’s a lot of confusion I think around the Mackenzie Valley Resource Act,” he said. “Some people think that’s ours, and it’s not ours. That’s federal legislation.”
The federal legislation, which came into effect in 1990, was “mirrored” by the GNWT following devolution to give the territory time to create its own legislation.
The consultation process – which involves a drop-in format where people can talk to various officials – is to lead to the drafting of what’s being described as the first made-in-the-NWT legislation to govern mining and mineral exploration.
Near the end of the consultation in Hay River, more than 20 community residents had participated.
The community consultations will help determine how different the territorial legislation will be from the mirrored federal legislation.
“I think the act for the most part that governed us under the federal government did its part, but things have changed politically over the years,” said Schumann, noting there is more interaction with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal governments. “We work cohesively with them to develop these things. You don’t see that in the rest of Canada.”
The minister added the new legislation will aim to address the concerns of all people.
“These things are important to all Northerners as we do have three operating mines in the Northwest Territories that are a significant size,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re doing a bad job. They’re doing a good job, I believe. I think we need to tweak it to make our own legislation so our concerns are brought forward by the people of the Northwest Territories.”
The new legislation will cover many things, such as the possibility of online staking, how the government interacts with mining companies, fees and royalties, and much more.
That includes reclamation, said Schumann. “We don’t want to have another Giant Mine in this territory now that land and resources have been handed over to us.”
The minister said the new legislation will be very important since mining is 30 to 40 per cent of the GDP in the Northwest Territories.
“It’s the biggest part of our GDP,” he said. “It is the biggest employer of people in the Northwest Territories, outside of the Government of the Northwest Territories.”
Schumann said a draft act won’t be ready to present to the Legislative Assembly until sometime next year.
The process will include consultations with Aboriginal governments, as required by the Canadian Constitution, to ensure their rights are not being infringed.
Mayor Brad Mapes, who attended the consultation event in Hay River, said the GNWT is doing a good job in reaching out to communities.
The GNWT needs to get its own act, Mapes said. “Obviously, we need to make sure that the communities are involved and all of our Aboriginal groups need to be consulted to make sure that we can make the process more accessible for mines to make things happen.”