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By Peter Taptuna
Special to Mining Explorers 2009 

Mining Explorers 2009: Discovering Nunavut: 10 years of growth and opportunities ahead

 

November 1, 2009



Nunavut was created on April 1, 1999. The new territory and the public government, in which I am proud to be the Minister of Mines, was created as part of the largest aboriginal land claims settlement in Canadian history. The signing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in 1993 marked a historic agreement between the Inuit of Canada's eastern Arctic and Canada. One of the key outcomes of that agreement was the creation of a new territory for all the people of Nunavut. This is a large territory. It is three times the size of Texas, spanning three time zones.

A lot has happened in Canada's newest territory during this past decade. In 2007 and 2008, more than C$300 million each year was invested by companies exploring for minerals in Nunavut. More than 130 project operators across the territory were looking for gold, silver, base metal, diamonds and iron ore deposits.

In those 10 years, a healthy number of projects advanced to development. Agnico-Eagle's Meadowbank Mine is completing construction, and by early next year will produce its first gold and an average of 350,000 ounces each year thereafter. Major projects in gold at Hope Bay, iron ore at Mary River, and uranium at Kiggavik have reached the feasibility stage and are poised to go into development.

I believe Nunavut has the potential for more major discoveries. Nunavut contains 2 million square kilometers of the best geology in the world. Much of the territory is underlain by Archean-aged rocks similar to the most productive geology in parts of Ontario, Quebec, South Africa, Australia, and Brazil.

To identify new prospective zones, our geological surveys have been doing real frontier mapping. In Nunavut, recent mapping on Southwest Baffin Island identified very favorable Archean-aged volcanic rocks, and mapping on Southampton Island has generated new nickel and diamond targets currently being explored by industry.

This mapping has uncovered and improved our understanding of some of Nunavut's large Archean greenstone belts, and as exploration companies like Committee Bay Resources Ltd., Commander Resources, Cumberland Resources and Miramar Mining have found out, there is a lot of gold in these rocks.

Our increasing understanding of the base metal potential and the broad area where companies have made diamond discoveries underscore that Nunavut has a greater potential for upside discovery success than any other jurisdiction in Canada or perhaps around the world.

In the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies, Nunavut has consistently ranked near the top in geological potential. In the latest survey, Nunavut ranked in the top dozen for combined policy and mineral potential. Geologists in South Africa coined the term "elephant country" for regions with the potential for truly large mineral discoveries. The term is now widely used in the industry. In Nunavut, we might not be so familiar with elephants, but we know for a fact that we are in prime "walrus country".

The next investor confidence advantage that Nunavut has is our certainty of tenure. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement guaranteed land ownership rights throughout the territory. With the exception of some minor aboriginal land claims still being settled along Nunavut's border with Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the struggle over aboriginal rights and title is settled.

This certainty of tenure coupled with the lack of exploration activity in the past have allowed aggressive, forward-looking companies to acquire mineral rights to entire diamond fields, greenstone belts, or some of the best uranium potential in the world.

Every one of the diamond discoveries by Diamonds North, Shear Minerals, Indicator Minerals, Stornoway Diamonds, and Peregrine Diamonds have been grassroots discoveries. All of these companies hold mineral tenures in diamond districts that have high potential for future production success. In other jurisdictions each of these districts would be split between multiple companies each carrying on their own exploration activity. We are confident that these rocks in Nunavut host large economic ore deposits, but it will take aggressive and forward-looking junior companies to discover them.

The mining industry is famous for its cycles, but for Nunavut this cycle will be different. I believe investors are coming back into the market due to the tremendous upside discovery potential, the certainty and stability and the support mineral exploration and mining has in Nunavut. Real bargains are available now for producers with cash. Look for more multinational majors to acquire projects in Nunavut in the coming months. I'm sure Nunavut will once again be seen as one of the best jurisdictions in the world for mineral exploration and mining investment.

The investments we have recently seen from Agnico-Eagle and Newmont Mining Corp. have greatly bolstered my confidence. Both have said publicly that after looking around the world, they saw Nunavut as an attractive and stable jurisdiction in which to invest and a jurisdiction with serious potential.

This year in Nunavut we celebrated our 10th anniversary. It's been a decade of discovery and accomplishment. We look forward to future growth and development in the mining industry in our territory.

The Honorable Peter Taptuna is deputy premier and Minister of Mines of Nunavut Territory.

 

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