Industry leaders say another drop in NWT mineral exploration spending was expected given the pandemic’s presence but remains “worrisome” for mining’s future in the territory.
Federal figures suggest spending on exploration in the NWT this year is on track to hit $36.6 million, less than half of the $79.8 million posted the year before.
The 2019 figure, which had been characterized by the NWT’s chamber of mines as a “sharp drop” from 2018’s $112 million, now appears a success in comparison with 2020.
The year to date has been “unlike any other,” acknowledged Ken Armstrong – president of the chamber, which is the industry body for mining and exploration in the NWT and Nunavut.
Armstrong said in a news release the decline was “not surprising” in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic but “worrisome compared to southern Canada.”
Despite the pandemic’s significant impact on Ontario and Quebec, both provinces are reporting increases in exploration spending this year.
In the North, it’s a different story. Spending has also shrunk markedly in the Yukon and Nunavut.
The NWT’s figure dropped to 1.7 percent of the overall spend in Canada – the territory’s lowest projected annual share so far this century.
“This difference in exploration expenditures between Canada’s three territories and the provinces highlights the significant challenges to northern resource development,” said Armstrong.
“We will continue our close work with governments to address these challenges, to see mineral resource development emerge stronger, and in turn help support healthy and resilient northern communities.”