On the Occasion of the Visit of the Prime Minister and Dignitaries to Meadowbank Gold Mine, near Baker Lake, Nunavut August 23, 2011
I am very happy to be here. I would like to welcome all the guests travelling with the Prime Minister to Nunavut. Nunavut is a beautiful land and we are happy to welcome you here.
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, in June of last year, we gathered in this very room to celebrate the opening of The Meadowbank Gold Mine.
We heard the late Jose Kusugak, President of the Kivalliq Inuit Association and a beloved elder and leader of Nunavut, describe Baker Lake as the happiest community in Nunavut because of Agnico-Eagle and the Meadowbank Gold Mine. Jose described how Baker Lake had been transformed from a community of hopelessness, a sad community once known as the welfare capital of the NWT, thanks to this mine and this company.
Mr. Prime Minister, the orderly development of Nunavut’s rich natural resources, as has been accomplished with this mine, followed what I know the Agnico-Eagle will agree was a rigorous environmental and socio-economic review process with Inuit as full participants through their land claim agreement.
Inuit will be getting a share of the royalties and benefits which will contribute greatly to the future of Nunavut, and a bright future it is. There are other mines like this on the horizon – as many as 12 are now being actively considered in all three regions of Nunavut.
This is a great story for the people and business community of Baker Lake and the Kivalliq Region, the KIA the Government of Nunavut and Agnico-Eagle Mines.
And projects like this, which are being planned for all three regions of Nunavut, are giving our growing youth population a reason for hope to replace despair. These projects will only improve the social and economic conditions for Nunavummiut that in my opinion too often are what makes the news in southern Canada.
Meadowbank marks the beginning of a new era, an era which sees forward looking companies like Agnico-Eagle willing to invest in our rich natural resources in all three regions of Nunavut, while respecting the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, Nunavut Regulatory Process and ensuring that Nunavummiut prosper economically through jobs, training and business opportunities.
The NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines has surveyed its members and found that if we add up all the mining projects now being considered in Nunavut – iron ore, diamonds, gold, base metals, uranium (and I know that it may be many years before they are all in production) there is a staggering $28 billion of potential investment now being actively considered in Nunavut, representing a potential 70,000 person years of work.
Investments like this will also be of benefit to Canada, as we seek to recover from the recent recession without having to raise taxes. Nunavut now ranks fourth in exploration spending in all of Canada, spending in exploration in Nunavut is up 22% over last year and our government’s big investment in geological mapping has helped enormously.
Our challenge in Nunavut is to maximize the participation of Nunavummiut workers and businesses in these opportunities, as Agnico-Eagle has done so well here at Meadowbank in this central region of our great territory.
Mr. Prime Minister, Minister Oliver, Minister Duncan, our Honourable MP Leona Aglukkaq, Inuit and community leaders, good citizens of Baker Lake and the Kivalliq Region, representatives of the media from southern Canada, thank you for coming here to celebrate this success story, a good news story, in Nunavut’s first operating mine since its creation in 1999, which I believe will be the first of many.
And now I am pleased to introduce Natural Resources Canada Honourable Minister Joe Oliver, MP for Eglinton-Lawrence, who I am delighted, is making his first official visit to Nunavut this week.