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Minister David Ramsay’s Address to The Arctic Technology Conference

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Minister David Ramsay’s Address to The Arctic Technology Conference

Category: tungsten’s News
Published on Saturday, 08 December 2012 23:11

Good morning. First of all, I would like to thank the organizers of the Arctic Technology Conference for inviting me here, and a special thank you to the Canadian Consulate for giving me the opportunity to speak with you here this morning.

This is my second visit to Houston this year. I always enjoy meeting with my colleagues in the oil and gas industry to speak about a subject that is very important to me and our government: the prospects for development of the immense resource potential of the Northwest Territories.

I have spoken with some of you before and have shared my stories about the place I call home. For those of you that aren't familiar with the NWT, let me give you a bit of context. Our vast, rugged landscape covers an area of nearly 520,000 square miles: twice the size of Texas and a bit smaller than Alaska. Texas has a population of over 25 million – two million of which make Houston their home – whereas the population of the entire Northwest Territories is only 43,000.

Our residents are spread across the territory – about half live in the capital of Yellowknife – the remaining living between the area bordered by Alberta at the 60th Parallel, to communities on the Arctic Ocean at the 72nd Parallel.  

What the NWT does have – in huge amounts – is resource potential. Lying beneath our lands are diamonds, gold, uranium, tungsten, lead, silver, zinc and other rare earth minerals.We are fortunate to have seven potential mining projects coming on-stream within the next decade – ranging from the opening of our fourth diamond mine – Gahcho Kue – to Avalon's Nechalacho Rare Earths mine project.

And it's not just mineral wealth – an abundance of oil and natural gas contributes to the territory's resource wealth. Current estimates indicate that there is potentially 81 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and nearly seven billion barrels of oil waiting to be developed in the NWT.

We are also turning to the resources that lie beneath our coastal waters as well – to our offshore oil reserves. Within its territorial waters, the Northwest Territories has resources in the Beaufort Sea which extend to the North Pole – an area that has enormous potential to supply both natural gas and oil to North America.

Based on geological analyses from the U.S. Geological Survey as well as our own advisors, the potential discoveries in the waters off the coast of the NWT may rival the Gulf of Mexico – 90 billion of undiscovered recoverable oil, more than 1,600 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of recoverable natural gas liquids in 25 geologically defined areas.

Herein lays the crucial paradox, and an important challenge: developing the enormous resources in the NWT so our residents and communities benefit, while ensuring development takes place is an environmentally sustainable way. Many of our residents rely on the land and we know how important it is to strike a balance between development and responsible environmental stewardship.

Some of you may be aware of the recent review undertaken by Canada's National Energy Board on drilling in the offshore regions. Late last year, the National Energy Board took a closer look at what would need to be done to regulate development activity in our offshore region.

The review outlined a number of considerations and requirements that exploration companies must follow when it comes to the development of these vast offshore resources – the review was also key in providing us in the NWT with clearer insights to the challenges we could face when it comes to Arctic exploration and development.

The NEB report outlined that any applicant who wants to develop oil and gas resources in the Arctic offshore would need to have safety plans, contingency plans, emergency response plans, and environmental protection plans in place before they would be permitted to move forward.

As we have seen in the recent past – one accident can mean untold negative economic and environmental impacts.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is confident that the NEB will continue to work to find ways to ensure that those companies that want to drill the Arctic offshore region will also work to protect the delicate ecosystem that exists in these areas.

Also, with Canada starting its term as Chair of the Arctic Council next year, the Northwest Territories is being presented with an exciting opportunity to engage on Northern priorities on both the national and international stage.

We are already familiar with the consensus-based operating style of the Arctic Council. We are working closely with Canada's lead Minister on the Arctic Council, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq. We will continue to work with Minister Aglukkaq to promote the social, environmental, and economic aspects of sustainable development in the Arctic region – and also having the opportunity to showcase the immense potential of Canada's Northern communities to the rest of the circumpolar world.

With the potential that exists in the NWT, our territory is poised to become an economic powerhouse and a main driver of Canada's overall economy.

Potential – that we can work to translate into jobs, investment, business growth, training opportunities, infrastructure development and growth for our residents and communities.

The Government of the Northwest Territories strives to maximize these kinds of opportunities for everyone who calls this territory their home.

It's a reality that underpins our desire to finalize the devolution process – once and for all – so that the people of the NWT can benefit directly from the resource revenues it will generate and have a greater say in the decisions required to move it forward.

Devolution is a term some of you may not be familiar with, but it is one we in the NWT know well as we are work towards a final Devolution agreement. Our government is currently in negotiations to transfer administrative authority and control over Crown lands, resources and waters in the NWT from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories.

The vast majority of Crown land in the NWT is controlled by the Federal government, and most decisions about the way the land is managed are actually made outside of our territory. Devolution will give our government and the people of our territory more authority to make decisions on the way public lands, resources and waters are managed, the way the economy is developed and the way the environment is protected.

This new era of increased accountability and responsiveness from decision-makers, and improved cooperation between territorial and Aboriginal governments, will help to streamline our regulatory processes. For the resource development industry, this is a key component in unlocking the mineral potential in our territory.

As we move forward on a number of exciting projects in the NWT, we are working to ensure our resources find their way to the marketplace, and establishing ourselves as a consistent, reliable, domestic source of energy across North America.

Thank you for your time this morning and I look forward to speaking with you and answering any questions you have about the Northwest Territories.


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