An economic think-tank’s latest overview of the three territories in effect instructs NWT residents to hop on the next flight east or west.

The Conference Board of Canada’s territorial outlook, published this week, forecasts boom times for Nunavut and Yukon but six years of economic gloom for the Northwest Territories.

While new mines are due to open in the two other territories, the report claims diamond mining in the NWT has now peaked – and it’s all downhill from here.

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“Unlike its neighbours, the Northwest Territories will have one of the weakest economic performances in the country,” the report begins, chirpily.

“Now that the new Gahcho Kué diamond mine is in commercial production, diamond production in the territory has reached its peak and will decline over the next six years. Two new metal mines should help offset some of the losses for the mining sector, but not until after 2020.

“More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast.”

The Conference Board of Canada predicts the NWT’s economy will contract by an average of 1.6 percent year-on-year between now and 2025 – in other words, a compound slump of roughly 12 percent in six years’ time.

By contrast, the forecast for Yukon and Nunavut suggests annual gains of almost five percent.

‘Talking with their feet’

Picking its moment, the federal government also recently released figures projecting a $5-million drop in mineral exploration expenditure in the NWT this year.

Mineral exploration, the first step in finding and developing a new mine, has been a concern in the territory for years.

The federal government expects the figure for the NWT to be $86.2 million in 2018, down from $91.2 million in 2017 – which was a depressing-enough figure at the time.

“The continual declining exploration investment in NWT and Nunavut is worrisome,” said Gary Vivian, the chamber’s president, in a news release on Thursday.

“Exploration today is the key to finding mines that will open 10-20 years from now. When only one in 1,000 discoveries becomes a mine, the more exploration we attract, the greater the odds of making a mine discovery.

“The serious lag in expenditures behind Nunavut and Yukon should be especially worrisome in the NWT given its world-class mining industry is maturing.

“The statistics tell us that investors … are talking with their feet.”