N.W.T. government spent nearly $280K on Vancouver mining conference this year

The N.W.T government spent approximately $277,530 to attend an annual mining conference in Vancouver this year — more than double what it spent two years ago.

Government spending on the event doubles since 2016 — MLA not convinced it’s helping mineral development

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly isn't convinced investing in the Roundup conference in Vancouver will create more mineral development in the Northwest Territories. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

The Northwest Territories government spent approximately $277,530 to attend an annual mining conference in Vancouver this January — more than double what it spent two years ago.

Those costs are outlined in a letter Premier Bob McLeod sent to Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly on Tuesday.

The document shows the government sent 34 participants to the Association for Mineral Exploration's Roundup conference this January, including six cabinet ministers and 28 staff.

The government has faced criticism from some MLAs over the last few years for how much it spends on the trip.

In the letter to O'Reilly, the premier states this year's higher costs "can be attributed to an enhanced [Northwest Territories government] presence" at the event, which he said shows the government's commitment to responsible mineral development.

"Our investments are beginning to show returns with new exploration companies entering the territory, increased claim staking and new activity in regions that have not seen exploration for some time," the letter states.

O'Reilly not convinced 

But O'Reilly said he doesn't see signs of new mines or exploration as a result of the government's participation in this year's conference.

"I just don't think that if we continue to expend this amount of money on mineral exploration it's going to increase the investment that's made in that sector," said O'Reilly. "But I think that a corresponding amount of investment in a new visitors centre in Yellowknife, or to support tourism here, would do enormous good for the Northwest Territories."

That's the kind of economic diversification the territory needs right now, he said.

O'Reilly — who has repeatedly raised concerns about the conference — doesn't think he can convince cabinet to "change the course over the next year."

The N.W.T. government spent approximately $196,359 on the Vancouver conference last year. In 2016, it spent $137,000.

CBC requested to speak to the premier or the Industry, Tourism and Investment minister but did not receive an interview.

Here's a breakdown of what the N.W.T. government spent to attend roundup conference this year:

  • $41,730 in air travel costs for 34 participants

  • $43,550 in accommodation costs for 34 participants

  • $27,055 for meals, incidentals and taxis for 34 participants

  • $6,035 in registration fees for the conference

  • $63,186 in exhibition costs

  • $63,000 to support the participation of 14 people representing Indigenous governments

  • $32,973 for hospitality and networking events including a premier's luncheon, Indigenous partners breakfast and an N.W.T. open house


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