Natural resources include land, water, wildlife, plants, minerals, energy and knowledge about resources. Resources are an important part of the economic, social and cultural context.
Natural resources are vital to the overall way of life in Nunavut and the NWT, and land-based and wage-based economic activities. There are significant gaps in information about wildlife and fish populations, ecology, geology and other topics that directly affect land – and wage-based economic activities.
Climate change creates new pressures on resources and requires creative solutions to deal with impacts. Less sea ice means the Northwest Passage will open for shipping and more intensive mineral and oil and gas exploration. Impacts of climate change, such as melting permafrost, have huge implications for traditional land-based activities, mining, oil and gas, energy, and public and private infrastructure.
Existing resource-based industries include mining and oil and gas, hydro electricity, fishing, forestry, tourism, and fish and meat processing. The current NWT resource boom focuses on diamonds and oil and gas, including the proposed Mackenzie Gas Pipeline.
In both territories, the federal government controls much related to mining and oil and gas. Territorial and regional boards oversee environmental reviews and land and water licences. The federal government collects almost all royalties; in Nunavut a small share goes to the Nunavut Trust21. To benefit fully from mining and oil and gas development, Nunavut and the NWT must develop and implement devolution and resource revenue sharing agreements with the federal government. In the NWT, these agreements also involve Aboriginal governments.
In both territories, governments and other agencies envision that large-scale non-renewable resource development – mining and oil and gas in particular – plays a significant role to provide jobs and reduce unemployment. But governments must recognize the importance of other employment sectors, especially their own. They must ensure that workplace and workforce literacy prepares northern workers for a diverse range of employment opportunities.
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21 Nunavut Economic Development Strategy. 2003.