Thursday, February 27, 2014

The mystique of Yellowknife, Part 2


The mystique of Yellowknife, Part 2

By Kotone Noda
The Daily Magi
September 24, 2064

As the largest city in the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife is the hub for mining, industry, transportation, communications, education, health, tourism, commerce, and government activity in the territory. Historically, Yellowknife's economic growth came from gold mining, and later government; however, because of falling gold prices and increased operating costs, the final gold mine closed in 2004, marking a turning point for Yellowknife's economy.

After a downturn in the 1990s during the closure of the gold mines and the downsizing of the government workforce in 1999, Yellowknife's economy has recovered, largely because of the diamond boom; the Ekati Diamond Mine, owned and operated by BHP Billiton (sold to Dominion Diamond Corporation in 2013), opened in 1998. A second mine, Diavik Diamond Mine, began production in 2003. Production from the two operating mines in 2004 was 12,618,000 carats (2,523.6 kg; 5,563.6 lb), valued at over C$2.1 billion. This ranked Canada third in world diamond production by value, and sixth by weight. A third mine, De Beers' Snap Lake Diamond Mine, received final approval and funding in 2005 and went into production in 2007. De Beers also applied in 2005 for a permit to open the Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine Project on the property formerly known as Kennady Lake. Upon receipt of approval, construction is expected to start in 2010 and the mine will reach full production by 2012. As well, growth and expansion in natural gas development and exploration sectors has contributed to this growth. Economic growth in the Northwest Territories was 10.6% in 2003.

The major employers in Yellowknife include: the Territorial Government, the Federal Government, Diavik Diamond Mines Incorporated (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Group)/Harry Winston Diamond Corporation, BHP Billiton, First Air, NorthwesTel, RTL Robinson Trucking, and the City of Yellowknife. Government employment accounts for 7,644 jobs, a large percentage of those in Yellowknife.

During winter, the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road is opened for semi-trailer truck traffic to take supplies from Yellowknife north to various mines located in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This ice road is usually open from the end of January through late March or early April, and Yellowknife becomes the dispatch point for the large number of truck drivers that come north to drive on the ice roads. During the 2007 ice road season, several drivers were featured on the History Channel TV series Ice Road Truckers.

Tourism is the largest renewable industry in the NWT and Yellowknife is the main entry point for visitors. Many of these tourists are Japanese, and come to experience the Northern climate and traditional lifestyle, as well as to see the Northern Lights. In 2004-05, visitors to the territory spent C$100.5 million.

The City of Yellowknife raises 50% of its operating revenue through property taxation. Both Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and Yellowknife Catholic School Board also raise a portion of their operating revenue through property taxation. Property taxes in Yellowknife are calculated through property assessment and the municipal and education mill rates. Mill rates in 2005 were 13.84 (residential) and 19.87 (commercial). Canadian North, a regional airline, is headquartered in Yellowknife. 

Folk on the Rocks is a local music festival that has been an annual occurrence since 1980. The event features a wide variety of musical acts; it is not limited to only Folk. In the past, it has drawn acts such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Trailer Park Boys, The Weakerthans, African Guitar Summit, Chirgilchin, The Odds, Stan Rogers, Gord Downie, Mad Bomber Society, Gob, Sam Roberts Band, Sloan, Great Lake Swimmers, and Hawksley Workman. The Midnight Sun Golf Tournament, with games played through the city's well-lit summer nights, is also a significant cultural event. There is an annual summer festival known as Raven Mad Daze, a street festival celebrated as part of the summer solstice. The festival was not held beginning in 2007 but was revived in 2010.

During the winter, there is the Snowking Winter Festival, featuring a snow castle on Great Slave Lake. The Long John Jamboree, a new winter festival, took place March 23–25, 2012 on the frozen Yellowknife Bay next to the Snowking castle, in Yellowknife's Old Town neighbourhood. Events include an ice sculpture contest sponsored by De Beers Canada, cultural events like Dene hand games, games, live music, a beer garden, food vendors, skating rink, artist's market, and much more. The Caribou Carnival, once held annually on Frame Lake, has not been held in recent years. In 2008, Yellowknife hosted the Arctic Winter Games and will do so again in 2065. In 2007 The White Stripes played in Yellowknife for their tour of Canada. The entire tour was recorded for a documentary called Under Great White Northern Lights.

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