The NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines has welcomed an increase in mineral exploration in the territory, while warning that the market remains ‘challenging’ for the industry.

Estimated figures released by Natural Resources Canada on Wednesday suggest spending on mineral exploration and development in the Northwest Territories rose to $103 million in 2014, up from $78 million a year earlier but below 2012’s $109 million figure.

The majority of that outlay focused on diamond mining. Expenditure on exploration fell elsewhere in the North and dropped by 7% across Canada as a whole.

“It’s been a few years since we’ve seen an increase,” admitted Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

“Part of it’s because the Gahcho Kue project [pictured] got approved and is under construction. People are seeing that a mine can be built here and a lot of seasoned diamond veterans are saying, ‘Yeah, there’s still a lot of potential up here in the NWT.’

“We’ve seen a bunch of staking and exploration work beginning around that Gahcho Kue area – that’s been probably the biggest contributor.”

However, Hoefer cautioned that increased exploration is not being matched by funding for mining projects that are ready to go.

“It’d sure be nice if we could see some wallets opening around the world to help fund projects that are ready to be built,” he told Moose FM.

“We’ve got a number of projects that have been through the approvals process and they’re just trying to raise money right now, but markets are tight.

“Hopefully that will change and we can see some more construction of those mines.”