The Canadian and N.W.T. governments announced $40 million in funding Wednesday toward pre-construction work on an all-season road that would connect western Nunavut and an area in the Northwest Territories believed to be rich in minerals.
According to a news release from the N.W.T. government, the funding will support environmental regulatory reviews and planning studies for the Slave Geological Province Corridor.
Transport Canada is contributing $30 million under the National Trade Corridors Fund, while the territorial government will contribute $10 million.
The Slave Geological Province is located in the eastern Northwest Territories, an area where the territory’s three operating diamond mines are located.
The government says the value of production from mines in the area up until 2018 was $45 billion. It also says the region also has “significant untapped mineral potential,” including 372 base metal and gold showings along the proposed route.
The government of Canada has announced $30 million for environmental planning and studies supporting the Slave Geological Province Corridor in the NWT – the territorial government is chipping in an additional $10 million #yzf #Yellowknife #nwt #northwestterritories @CBCNorth pic.twitter.com/VOl7vsB6LF
— Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi (@GabrielaPanza) August 14, 2019
Along with the proposed 413-kilometre, two-lane gravel road — which is estimated to cost $1.1 billion — the long-term project also includes plans for a hydro transmission line. It says the road will also link to a deep water Arctic port.
“Transportation is a lifeline for Northern communities and for economic development in Canada’s Arctic,” MP Michael McLeod said in a statement. “By finding ways to make our infrastructure more resilient, we are improving transportation safety and reliability.”
The government says this project will create new economic opportunities and benefit both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
“Highway infrastructure plays a very important part in the longevity and well-being of our communities and residents,” Wally Schumann, the territorial minister of Infrastructure, said in a statement.
He added that infrastructure projects like these can impact the territory by “helping unlock our full economic potential, supporting Canada as we transition to a lower carbon economy, and stabilizing the cost of living across the North.”
At a press conference following the announcement, Schumann told reporters part of the regulatory review will look at what impact the project could have on the Bathurst caribou herd. Last year it was reported that the herd had lost over half its population since 2015.
When asked what would happen if the review finds the project could impact the caribou’s migration, Schumann said: “I’m not a caribou expert, that’s going to have to be a discussion the regulatory boards are going to have … and they’re the ones that will have to make the decision on that.”
Schumman said this road, once completed, could contribute “billions of dollars if not hundreds of billions” to the Canadian economy.
“This is important not just to us but everybody,” he told reporters.
Update: This story has been updated to include minister Walter Schumann’s press conference remarks following the announcement.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Northern Canada Highway to get facelift, CBC News
Finland: Finland takes another step towards building Arctic rail link, The Independent Barents Observer
Norway: Railway linking Barents Sea coast to Arctic Finland not commercially viable, report says, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Murmansk supports building new road connection to Finland, The Independent Barents Observer
United States: U.S. government signs new land swap for Alaskan wildlife refuge road, Alaska Public Media