The Hope Bay gold mine in Nunavut was recently acquired by Chinese gold mining company Shandong Gold Mining.
As Canada’s resource industry is rocked by the fallout from Covid-19, the foreign mining firm has scooped up Hope Bay from TMAC Resources for what is likely a good price, despite suspicious timing, creating what Tom Hoefer, executive director NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, has called “good news for everyone.”
Not everyone is happy though as the purchase has generated a national debate around Arctic sovereignty and Canada’s dealings with China.
Geo-politics authors, federal MPs and a former CSIS director have been weighing in on the issue and recently so has Rylund Johnson, a Yellowknife MLA in the NWT’s legislative assembly.
“China has no interest in seeing our rare earth metals developed or any mine compete with their own if it comes to that … If Canada had real economic development corporations and gave the North’s Indigenous development corporations meaningful capital, then we could actually own some of our own resources as a country,” stated Johnson online in response to the article “Chinese ownership of Nunavut’s resources stokes unease,” in the May 25 Nunavut News.
Johnson, we believe, has hit the nail on the head.
What mining in the North in general lacks is proper Inuit investment.
Mining represents a huge opportunity for Inuit to have a stake in the development happening on their land. If the federal government had read the tea leaves and positioned itself to support Inuit-owned development corporations, there could have been an alternative to selling to the opportunistic Chinese-government-backed SD Gold.
Like it or not, Canada is a resource nation but it currently seems entirely unable or unwilling to properly position itself to manage these resources.
As it was clear with the Wet’suwet’en disaster in British Columbia, colonial governments are not effectively dealing with Indigenous governments. While there was a clear communication failure on the federal government’s end, there is also a persisting lack of clarity on resource development throughout the country.
National unity is at an all time low and it is not hard to see that resource development is at the heart of the issue.
From pipelines being blocked in B.C. to separatist flirtations in Alberta over oil to the lack of exploration in the territories, Canada and its politicians seem unable to strike a balance between environmental responsibility and developing a national economy.
This fog of confusion has completely shaken investor confidence in Canada and now the mining community can’t help but be relieved that at least someone is willing to invest in Canada’s North, even if it is from a company controlled by an authoritarian communist dictatorship.
There is risk on both ends of this deal: the risk of a deal not happening at all and all those jobs for Northerners going belly-up and the risk of a bad global actor getting its hooks into Canada’s resources and Arctic sovereignty.
It seems the North wasn’t left with much choice.