Mineral production in Nunavut is projected to surpass production in the NWT by a wide margin for 2020, the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines stated on July 29.
Nunavut already inched past the NWT in 2019 by $105,327 in production output, a historical first, but Nunavut’s lead is expected to be far higher for 2020.
The expected change comes as production of iron and gold in Nunavut has increased while diamond mine production declined in the NWT in 2020 due to COVID-19 disruptions and no new mines coming online.
The Ekati mine, now owned by Arctic Canadian Diamond, suspended operations in March 2020 out of concerns around the spread of COVID-19. It restarted on Jan. 20, 2021.
In a news release, the chamber pointed to data published by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) on July 23, which shows that estimated mineral production in Nunavut increased by $438 million to $2.07 billion in 2020, a 27 per cent rise compared to 2019. Production had already increased by $595 million in 2018.
By contrast, estimated production in the NWT came to $1.15 billion in 2020, a decline of $376 million from 2019. In 2018, production fell by $515 million from $2.042 billion.
Chamber president Ken Armstrong said multi-year trends in the two territories are moving in opposing directions.
“Nunavut is on a strong growth track, and with the (Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.) Back River project advancing in the wings and with territorial support for Mary River mine expansion, one can expect to see continued growth,” Armstrong said. “Unfortunately, in the NWT, we are seeing the pattern of decline that economists have been predicting as a result of maturing mines combined with no new mineral production coming on stream. We very much look forward to seeing the Prairie Creek, Nechalacho, Pine Point and NICO deposits advancing to production to help mitigate some of the losses.”
Although the NWT has three producing diamond mines in Ekati, Diavik and Gahcho Kué, no new mines have begun production since 2019.
In Nunavut, the Meadowbank-Amaruq, Meliadine and Hope Bay gold mines and the Mary River iron ore mine are all operational. Meliadine began commercial production in May 2019 and the Amaruq deposit started contributing ore to the Meadowbank mine later that year.
The combined total value of the two territories’ mineral production is projected at $3.2 billion for 2020, just $62,542 more than the the total for 2019.
NRCan projects the value of all Canadian mineral production for 2020 to be $43.9 billion, down by $3.8 billion from $47.7 billion in 2019.