The economy relies heavily on resource industries subject to wide fluctuations in world markets. Mining is by far the largest private sector industry, with major mines for ore including gold, uranium and recently diamonds. Oil and gas exploration and development in the Mackenzie River valley and offshore in the Beaufort Sea are also becoming important. Development, while necessary for economic prosperity, is being carefully managed so as not to threaten the fragile Arctic ecosystem and the traditional lifestyles of the northern peoples.
The Aboriginal peoples' traditional subsistence activities--fishing, hunting and trapping--also have an impact on the N.W.T. economy. Commercial fishery development in the N.W.T.--freshwater and saltwater--is being encouraged. Fur harvesting continues to be very important, supplementing the income of many Aboriginal families.
Recently, tourism has gained prominence. The Northwest Territories offers a variety of landscapes of great natural beauty, conducive to fishing, wildlife observation and other outdoor activities. Sports fishing and big-game hunting play a small role as well, building on the Aboriginals' innate skills in those fields.