5.2 Trends in oil-gas and mineral production by ecozone

Last Updated: 
June 4, 2015
This indicator measures trends in the production of two of the main past and present drivers of the economy in the NWT: oil-gas and minerals such as gold, silver, tungsten, uranium, lead/zinc, and diamonds.

Giant Mine, Yellowknife, NWT.
Giant Mine, a former gold mine near Yellowknife, NWT on the Taiga Shield. All NWT gold mines were closed by 2003.

Production is reported in volume produced for oil and gas, and volume of shipments for minerals. The ecozone in which production occurred is noted.

Production volumes for minerals, including diamonds are obtained from Natural Resources Canada, as summarized by Statistics Canada. Production of oil and gas is obtained from NWT Bureau of Statistics, with data from National Energy Board and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). The dollar values of production shipments can be obtained from these sources.

NWT focus

Today, the NWT economy is driven mostly by the  diamond mining industry. In the past, mining of other  minerals had a huge impact on the NWT’s economy and  environment. Oil and gas production is predicted to  have a greater impact on the economy in the future. Tracking production of these non-renewable resources  provides insight into the overall direction of these economic drivers, and helps our understanding of present pressures on the environment. This information helps predict future demands for exploration and construction.

For example, to simply maintain current production of minerals and oil and gas, industry needs more exploration, new mines and wells, and upgrades or construction of transportation corridors. These activities all have an impact on the state of the environment. These impacts, in turn, can be tracked as changes in revenues and expenditures related to environmental assessments, mitigation measures, and environmental remediation.

Oil and gas development, NWT
Oil and gas development, NWT

Current view: status and trend

Oil and gas

Oil production in the NWT
Source: NWT Bureau of Statistics. 2014. Annual Volume of Mineral Production by Commodity.

Gas production in the NWT
Source: NWT Bureau of Statistics. 2014. Annual Volume of Mineral Production by Commodity.

Both oil and gas production in the NWT has been declining. As of 2013, there are only two oil production fields in the NWT: Norman Wells (Imperial Oil) and Cameron Hills (Strategic). The Norman Wells field accounts for about 97% of the NWT's oil production, even though production there fell by 13.88% from 2012 to 20131. Gas production in the NWT occurs at three locations: Norman Wells (Imperial Oil), Cameron Hills (Strategic), and Inuvik (Ikhil. AltaGas). All three gas fields declined in production from 2012 to 2013, with the Norman Wells field accounting for around 64% of the total gas production in the NWT1.

In 2013, no new exploration or development wells were drilled or seismic acquired in the southern Northwest Territories. Four new exploration wells were drilled in the Central Mackenzie Valley and 71 kilometers of 2D seismic was acquired in 2013.


In the past, NWT mines produced gold (16 mines, 1938 to 2004), silver (5 mines, 1966 to 1984), and uranium (two mines, 1933 to 1982) in the Taiga Shield ecozone, and tungsten (one mine from 1962 until 2007) in the Taiga Cordillera. Lead/zinc (one mine, 1966 to 1988) was produced in the southern part of the Taiga Plains.

Diamonds are now the main minerals being produced: two mines (opened in 1998 and 2002) are in the Southern Arctic ecozone, and one mine (opened in 2007) is in the Taiga Shield ecozone. A fourth diamond mine is in development within the Taiga Shield ecozone. A tungsten mine also operated in the Taiga Cordillera.

Diamond production in the NWT
Source: NWT Bureau of Statistics. 2014. Annual Volume of Mineral Production by Commodity.

Tungsten production in the NWT
Source: NWT Bureau of Statistics. 2014. Annual Volume of Mineral Production by Commodity.

Mineral exploration in the NWT continues to fluctuate year to year. In 2003, the value of mineral exploration in the NWT was a low of $53.6 million. By 2007, that number had reached $193.7 million worth of exploration dollars. For 2013, mineral exploration had again dropped to a value of $90 million2.

Looking forward

The newest metal mine in the NWT, the Prairie Creek project (Taiga Cordillera) has all the necessary permits in place to begin producing zinc, silver, and lead. Fortune Minerals hopes to develop the NICO mine (gold, cobalt, bismuth, and copper) on the Taiga Plains. With the opening of the Gacho Kue diamond mine, GDP from mining is expected to increase by at least $700 million by 2018 from 2014 levels3.

Technical Notes

  • Mineral production prior to 1999 includes Nunavut: gold production occurred from 1982 to 2003, lead/zinc production occurred from 1976 to 2001. Nunavut was also a nickel producer from 1957 to 1962.
  • Diamond production in Nunavut occurred from 2005 to 2007. Details on mine lifespan and locations were obtained from NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines. Detailed information is available upon request. 

For more information

Other focal points

  • For more information on landscape changes related to oil-gas and mineral production, including exploration activities, go the LANDSCAPE CHANGES  focal point.
  • For more information on short-term activity levels related to industry, to go the HUMAN ACTIVITIES focal point.

Contact us

    Found an error or have a question? Contact the team at NWTSOER@gov.nt.ca.


    Ref. 1. AANDC. 2014 Northern Oil and Gas Annual Report 2013.

    Ref. 2. NWT Bureau of Statistics. 2014. Minerals. Vlue of Mineral Exploration and Deposit Appraisal Activity, NWT, 1999 to 2014.

    Ref. 3. GNWT-ITI. 2014. Economic Outlook 2014-2015.