TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – A long-term vision for the economic inclusion and direct participation in the resources sector of the Inuit people of Canada’s newest territory Nunavut was one step closer to realisation, with a funding commitment, on Wednesday, by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA), which set in motion the start of a project-development initiative on Inuit-owned land (IOL).
Nunavut Resources Corporation (NRC) in March entered into a strategic alliance with project developer HTX Minerals for mineral-project generation and exploration on IOL, in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.
NRC on Wednesday said it had received a commitment for $1-million in seed funding from the KIA to start preparations for a mineral exploration programme on IOL in 2013.
KIA president and NRC chairperson Charlie Evalik told Mining Weekly Online that the NRC was looking for the equity participation of the Inuit within the integrated resources sector.
“The seed funding from KIA demonstrates Inuit commitment to taking a leadership role in resource development,” said Evalik, who was the senior negotiator for the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut, which represented the Inuit in negotiations with the federal government during the settlement of the Nunavut land claims agreement, which led to the establishment of Nunavut in 1999.
“This investment allows us to begin generating exploration projects that will also help further demonstrate the immense potential of the region and our alliance strategy. Our alliance with HTX Minerals, and the investment in it, will help accelerate the discovery of economic ore deposits and could lead to employment and business opportunities, much greater investments in infrastructure and training,” he added.
The western-most of three administrative regions within Nunavut, the Kitikmeot region has a land area of about 435 000 km2, and lies mainly above the Arctic Circle, where NRC and HTX plan to explore for gold, silver, copper, zinc, diamonds and other minerals, including base metals, uranium and rare earths.
The exploration would, in particular, focus on 11 500 km2 of IOL that have over 600 mineral occurrences, but have seen little exploration. The IOL, which cover about two-and-a-half per cent of the Kitikmeot region contained about 56% of all known mineral occurrences in the region.
Nunavut, which means “Our Land”, was officially separated from the Northwest Territories in 1999, following the largest aboriginal land settlement in Canadian history. The settlement in 1993, awarded the Inuit title to 19% of the land of Nunavut, which covers about one-fifth of Canada. The land claims settlement included transferring about 2% of the minerals rights to the Inuit.
Subsequently, the NRC was created by the KIA as a fully Inuit-owned economic development corporation to participate in early stage mine-related value creation.
The potential for project generation was real indeed.
In 2011 Natural Resources Canada said “adequate geological knowledge exists for only about one-third of Nunavut”.
“The strategic partnership between the NRC and HTX combines the local landowners with an experienced project development team, which augers well for both parties,” HTX CEO Scott McLean told Mining Weekly Online in an interview.
McLean said one of the most important synergies of the partnership was that the project-development team had a ‘social licence’ with which to undertake exploration and project development. The NRC would assist in providing accelerated and preferential land access, while HTX would contribute its strong project-generation track record.
“There still are big mines to be found. The area could still be considered as frontier land, which is exactly what best suits HTX’s experience and proven discovery methodology,” McLean said.
McLean previously was senior exploration manager with Falconbridge (now Xstrata Nickel) and HTX COO Kevin Stevens had been principal geophysicist with Falconbridge. In 2004, the pair were co-recipients of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada prospector of the year award, for the discovery of the Nickel Rim South mine, in Sudbury.
McLean pointed to expanding infrastructure in the region due to project development and the shipping season becoming longer in waters that are frozen during winter, as being favourable for project development in the region.
The Nunavut region, which mostly comprises Crown-held land, currently has one operating gold mine, the Meadowbank mine operated by Agnico Eagle, as well as a number of advanced exploration projects, including the Mary River iron-ore project being developed by Baffinland, the Hope Bay gold project currently under care-and-maintenance by Newmont and the Kiggavik uranium project being developed by Areva.
The five-year partnership’s strategic objective now is to secure $5-million by November to begin planning for the 2013 field programme, as part of $18-million in funding over five years for field programmes.
During the project discovery and exploration phases, the cooperation agreement provided for mentoring and training opportunities for Inuit, to be able to continue with exploratory activities with some degree of autonomy after the agreement had expired.
Evalik added that the Inuit were gradually transitioning from a traditional subsistence economy of hunting and trapping, to a new economy based on, among others, the resources and tourism sectors and health services.