Nunavut economy grows despite global pandemic

Growth in the mining sector offset losses elsewhere, according to Statistics Canada.

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Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine is seen near Rankin Inlet. Nunavut was one of two provinces or territories in Canada to see its economy grow in 2020, according to a recent Statistics Canada report, which showed that much of the growth was due to mining activities. (Agnico Eagle via Nunatsiaq News)

Nunavut was one of two Canadian jurisdictions to have its economy grow in 2020, as the country’s gross domestic product fell 5.3 percent, according to a recent Statistics Canada report.

The territory’s GDP increased 3.5 percent in 2020 — the most of any territory or province in the country, with Yukon trailing with a 1.1 percent increase — according to the report published Monday.

Economic growth in Nunavut was supported by a healthy year for the gold and silver mining sector, which grew by 23 percent, and iron mining, which grew by 34 percent.

This bodes well for the territory, said Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton’s Sprott School of Business.

“If the northern territories of Canada have these minerals, and there’s a demand for them around the world, which there is, and I believe will continue to grow, then that’s the competitive advantage this region has,” Lee said in an interview.

Lee said sound environmental policies in addition to policies that support growth can be a good formula for economic opportunities in the territory.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said mining growth needs to continue to support a healthy economy that is rebounding from the pandemic.

“Now is the time … to support mineral resource development in northern Canada,” Hoefer said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

Meanwhile, most other industries contracted in Nunavut, such as air transportation, which declined 42.6 percent. As well, food and drink declined 30.7 percent and construction fell 23.4 percent, the report states.

But Lee said those numbers are not as alarming as they may look because the economy is not in a recession, and once restrictions are lifted and people are vaccinated, Lee said, “those industries will snap back very quickly.”