Western Nunavut Port Idea Nixed by Mining Firm

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Hopes for a major port and road to be built in western Nunavut, Canada have been dealt another major blow, as a company trying to build a mine in the region has deemed the project to be too expensive to build and operate.

For years, Kitikmeot Corp. and Nuna Logistics have jointly been pushing for the construction of an all-weather road from mines in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to a deep-sea port in Bathurst Inlet in Nunavut’s western Kitikmeot region.

Minerals and Metals Group (MMG) says it has conducted a pre-feasibility study on the Bathurst Inlet road and port proposal and two other options to ship ore from its proposed Izok base metals mine, located 250 kilometres southeast of Kugluktuk, Nunavut.

The proposal, also known as BIPAR, has called for a road running east from the Izok Lake property, across Contwoyto Lake, and north to a deep-sea port that would be built in the inlet.

Most complex option

“The Bathurst Inlet option ended up being the most expensive and also the most complex,” MMG Canada president Martin McFarlane told CBC News Monday from the company’s Vancouver office.

“The real issue was that in the middle of it — between the Izok deposit and the coast — is Contwoyto Lake, which is a fairly substantial body of water that we had to cross.”

MMG Canada wants to develop a mine at its Izok Lake property, which is believed to be rich in high-grade zinc and copper. But McFarlane said transporting supplies and ore to and from the remote site will be a challenge.

In addition to the Bathurst Inlet proposal, MMG has also been looking at two road options, both of which head north from the mining property to Coronation Gulf. One of the proposed roads runs near Kugluktuk.

“The road and port cost about 50 per cent of the total build cost,” McFarlane said.

“The operating costs of moving concentrate to the coast and also, in return, bringing supplies back are about 35 per cent of the total operating costs for the mining project.”

Inuit corporation disappointed

MMG Canada’s decision not to proceed with the Bathurst road and port project disappointed the Kitikmeot Corp., an Inuit-owned economic development organization that had hoped the project would encourage more mineral exploration and development.

‘Things need to happen up here and, you know, hopefully we’ll find something that will develop BIPAR.’—Charlie Lyall

Kitikmeot Corp. president Charlie Lyall said he’s disappointed “because it’s going to delay the development of the region…. The cost of living in the community is going to remain high.”

The Inuit corporation and Nuna Logistics initially proposed to build a 211-kilometre road from the port in Bathurst Inlet to various N.W.T. mines, but a technical review was suspended in 2008 amid uncertainty about who would use and pay for the project.

Despite the latest setback, Lyall said he is not giving up on his dream to build a road and port in the Bathurst Inlet area.

“We have to keep plugging along,” he said. “Things need to happen up here and, you know, hopefully we’ll find something that will develop BIPAR.”

MMG Canada hopes to secure the necessary approvals for the Izok mine by 2015 and start full production by 2017. McFarlane said the Bathurst Inlet proposal is so costly and complex that it could jeopardize development of the proposed mine.

“If the project gets built, then all benefits come along with it,” he said. “If the project doesn’t get built, then no one receives anything from it.”

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