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Policy holds back North of 60 potential

North of 60 Mining News - May 15, 2024

Mining executives rank Alaska, Yukon, B.C., NWT, and Nunavut high on mineral potential; mining policy issues, however, weigh on "Investment Attractiveness Index" in latest Fraser Survey.

While global mining executives ranked Alaska, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon in the top 20 when it comes to mineral potential, a not-so-favorable view on mining policy weighs on the investment attractiveness index of all these North of 60 Mining jurisdictions in the latest edition of the Fraser Institute's Annual Survey of Mining Companies.

Each year, Canada-based Fraser Institute calls on mining executives from around the world to rank global mining jurisdictions when it comes to mineral potential and a broad range of issues related to mining policies. Averaging out the responses to this survey, the Canadian think tank ranks each mining jurisdiction's "Investment Attractiveness Index."

Considered the fourth richest jurisdiction in the world when it comes to mineral potential and second to none when it comes to mining policy, Utah jumped 16 positions to claim the title of best place on Earth to discover, permit, and build a mine, according to the global mining executives that responded to the Fraser Institute's Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2023.

"The Fraser Institute's mining survey is the most comprehensive report on government policies that either attract or discourage mining investors, and this year Utah ranks highest of anywhere in the world," said Elmira Aliakbari, director of the Fraser Institute's Centre for Natural Resource Studies and co-author of the report.

While rich mineral deposits are key to being a top mining jurisdiction, the ability to discover, extract, and deliver those minerals to market is what sets top mining jurisdictions apart from those that rank lower on the Fraser Survey reliably and economically.

"A sound regulatory regime coupled with competitive taxes make a jurisdiction attractive to investors," Aliakbari said. "Policymakers across the globe should understand that mineral deposits alone are not enough to attract investment."

Rounding out the top five out of 86 mining jurisdictions considered in the Fraser Survey are: Nevada (2), Saskatchewan (3), Western Australia (4), and Quebec (5).

Running down the list, Alaska (11) was the top North of 60 Mining News jurisdiction, followed by Yukon (16), Northwest Territories (23), British Columbia (25), and Nunavut (39).

Fraser Institute

Alaska steady at No. 11

Alaska landed just outside of the top 10 when it comes to mining executive views of the top global jurisdictions to attract mining investments. While this ranking is not bad and is on par with the 2022 Fraser Survey, it is a step down from the top five rankings the northern U.S. jurisdiction enjoyed previously.

Less than favorable views of mining policy in Alaska are the primary reason the Far North State did not break into the top 10 on the Fraser Survey Investment Attractiveness Index.

Alaska came in at No. 19 on the 2023 Fraser Survey's "Policy Perception Index," which is the compilation of responses to 15 mining policy questions.

These policy questions include asking mining professionals to rank the quality of infrastructure in each jurisdiction, an area where Alaska never does well. This year, America's Last Frontier ranked No. 47 regarding quality of infrastructure, which is in the bottom half of 86 global mining jurisdictions ranked in the latest Fraser mining survey.

With the U.S. Bureau of Land Management pulling and canceling previously approved permits to build a 211-mile industrial access road to the Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska, the perception of Alaska's infrastructure is not likely to improve in the short term.

On a more positive note, mining executives rank Alaska favorably when it comes to the timeliness of issuing permits for mineral exploration, with 80% of the mining executives responding to the question expecting to receive exploration permits within six months. Out of North American jurisdictions, only Nevada and Ontario ranked higher.

"When responding to a drilling permit application, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources was prompt in addressing any questions we had regarding the application process. They were equally quick to pose their own questions upon submission of the application," the president of an exploration company penned in his response to the Fraser Survey.

Policies weigh down Yukon

Much like Alaska, Yukon is regarded well for its mineral potential but is weighed down by policy concerns.

Mining executives ranked Yukon No. 10 when it comes to mineral potential but No. 28 when it comes to perception of the territory's mining policy.

The three primary areas of concern that hold Yukon back on the Policy Perception Index are infrastructure, uncertainty concerning land claims, and uncertainty concerning protected areas.

On the infrastructure front, Yukon was ranked No. 54, slightly below Alaska but better than its neighboring territories to the east.

On the question of uncertainty concerning land claims, respondents to the Fraser Survey ranked Yukon at No. 59, between Bolivia and Zambia.

When it comes to uncertainty concerning protected areas, Canada's westernmost territory was ranked No. 60, which falls between Indonesia and Bolivia.

Respondents to the survey say it takes too long to permit exploration projects in the Yukon, with only 28% expecting to get permits in six months and 43% expecting it to take longer than 15 months.

"The mines regulator continues to stipulate regulations for drilling permits that lack the basic understanding of field work and the drilling process," the president of an exploration company commented on exploration permitting in the Yukon.

Big leap for NWT

Buoyed by a much more favorable view of both mineral potential and policy perception, Northwest Territories leaped 19 positions to No. 24 on the Fraser Survey Investment Attractiveness Index.

When it comes to mineral potential, mining executives ranked Northwest Territories at No. 4, which is 15 positions higher than the No. 19 ranking on the 2022 survey and 21 positions higher than the No. 21 position in 2021.

This upward-trending view of the territory's mineral potential likely has to do with the critical minerals being found there, especially the large lithium potential being outlined in the Yellowknife Pegmatite Province east of the territory's capital city.

Perception of Northwest Territories' mining policy, however, is being held down by uncertainty concerning environmental regulations (69); protected areas (68); infrastructure (68); disputed land claims (64); and availability of labor (62).

Third-world policy perceptions

While mining executives rank Nunavut's mineral potential as 19th best on the planet, their perception of its mining policy is more akin to third-world countries, resulting in the territory falling to No. 64 between South Africa and South Sudan on the 2023 Fraser Survey Policy Perception Index.

The easternmost Canadian territory scored low on nearly every policy metric considered in the Fraser Survey. This includes being ranked in the bottom 10 when it comes to uncertainty concerning protected areas (83); environmental regulations (81); regulatory duplication and inconsistencies (78); and availability of labor (78).

"The governments in Nunavut impose regulatory challenges and high costs prompting companies to explore mining opportunities in jurisdictions beyond Canada," the senior manager of a consulting company penned in his response to the survey.

Nunavut only beat out Greenland, Mongolia, Cambodia, and Papua New Guinea regarding quality of infrastructure.

Fraser Institute

Click on image to read the entire Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2022.

Enviro concerns in B.C.

With perceptions of its mineral potential (17) and mining policy (32) both slipping, British Columbia fell 10 positions to No. 24 on the latest edition of Fraser Institute's Investment Attractiveness Index.

Unlike its neighbors to the north, the better-connected and powered British Columbia is not as held back by infrastructure concerns, ranking No. 30 worldwide on this topic.

The westernmost Canadian province, however, did not rank so favorably on several other policy issues. This includes low rankings when it comes to uncertainty concerning protected areas (74); environmental regulations (73); and disputed land claims (66).

These concerns were reflected by the comments of a mining company vice president, who wrote, "British Columbia has high uncertainty on land claims and environment review approaches."

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Author photo

Over his more than 16 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.


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