OTTAWA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The premier of Canada’s vast mineral-rich Arctic territory of Nunavut on Monday played down the idea of tax breaks to combat a slide in commodity prices, saying investors instead wanted more infrastructure.
Peter Taptuna said in an interview that the slump had hurt the economy and that he was keeping an eye on the handful of major companies that are operating in Nunavut, which is rich in gold, diamonds, iron ore, lead, zinc and uranium.
These include Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd, which runs the territory’s only gold mine. Luxembourg-based steel maker ArcelorMittal SA owns half of Baffinland, a Canadian mining company that plans to exploit the huge Mary River iron ore deposit on Baffin Island.
An almost complete lack of infrastructure means operating costs are exorbitant in Nunavut, an 810,000 square mile (2.1 million square km) expanse of rock and ice slightly larger than Turkey.
“In Nunavut it’s not necessarily the tax breaks ... that are going to attract investment. It’s infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure,” Taptuna said in Ottawa.
“It’s very difficult to do much of anything without proper marine facilities.”
Taptuna said his priority was to construct port facilities in important centers such as the capital Iqaluit, where tricky tides and an absence of docks mean it can take cargo ships up to 10 days to unload their cargoes.
Taptuna said a port in Iqaluit would cost between C$90 million ($71 million) and $140 million to build - money his government does not have.
Options include private-public partnerships or increasing the debt cap, he said, but he declined to give more details. Nunavut currently as a debt cap of C$400 million and any increase would have to be approved by the federal government.
With the general commodity slump, the value of mining exploration in Nunavut dropped to C$148 million in 2014 from C$258 million in 2013.
$1=$1.26 Canadian Reporting by David Ljunggren