Canada's Southern Arctic Ecozone is one of the most sparsely populated areas of the world. The total population, scattered in 17 communities, numbers only about 10 000 people (1991). Rankin Inlet is the largest centre, with a population in 1991 of 1 706.
The Inuit, who have occupied the region for a thousand years or more, form over 80% of the population. They include regional groups sharing a common heritage and one language with several dialects.
Arctic communities feature a mixture of traditional and cash economies. Much of the local population depends on subsistence hunting, trapping, and fishing -- activities valued for their contributions to independence, self-esteem, tradition, and a healthy lifestyle. Residents are also involved in mining, oil and gas development, construction, services, and government activities. Those Inuit employed full-time as wage earners turn to weekend and part-time hunting to supplement their diet with preferred meats.
The arctic ecozones, representing Canada's last natural resource frontier, are rich in mineral and hydrocarbon resources. Since 1989, however, the value of total metallic mineral production has fallen drastically due to a weak global market. The Lupin gold mine is now the only mine operating in the Southern Arctic Ecozone.
The arctic ecozones have 59% of Canada's estimated oil resources and 48% of potential gas resources, but there has been no substantial development since the 1980s. This is largely due to external factors, such as low crude oil prices and the global recession. Tourism is also significant to the economy, generating $11.8 million for arctic businesses in 1993.