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Road from NWT to western Nunavut gets $40 million

MP Michael McLeod and Minister of Infrastructure Wally Schumman announce funding for infrastructure connecting NWT to Nunavut on Tuesday. Nick Pearce / NNSL Photo

A combined $40 million in funding from the federal and territorial governments will go toward environmental reviews for a major infrastructure project to spur investment in the mineral sector.

NWT MP Michael McLeod announced at the legislative assembly on Wednesday a federal contribution of $30 million toward a regulatory review of a future all-season road planned through the Slave Geological Province Corridor — a resource-rich region on the eastern border of the NWT and western border of Nunavut.

The GNWT will provide the remaining $10 million.

McLeod said that the federal infrastructure investment will make it less costly to do business in the region.

“(The corridor will) boost economic development by reducing the operating costs of existing mines as well as resource extraction exploration and development," McLeod said. "(It will) also be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

The planned road — a two-lane gravel route through 413 km within the corridor — will include hydro and communications aimed at making the region more accessible to industry.

Timelines as to when, or if, the project will ever be completed are to be determined following the reviews.

In a news release, the GNWT Department of Infrastructure stated that a road project through the corridor will incentivize resource development, and further assist the expansion of Taltson River hydroelectricity dam — another major infrastructure project in the works.

NWT MP Michael McLeod, left, and GNWT Minister of Infrastructure Wally Schumman announce funding for infrastructure connecting NWT to Nunavut on Tuesday, Aug. 15 at the legislative assembly.
Nick Pearce/NNSL Photo

Speaking to reporters, Wally Schumman, GNWT Minister of Infrastructure said it will be “a number of years” before the project is determined to be “a go or not.”

He said moving the Slave Geological Province project forward has been a longtime goal of his stretching back to before he was first elected in 2015.

“When I decided to run for MLA this was very top of mind for me,” he said.

The returns on the project will be a significant contributor to national economic growth, he added.

“As we're a resource-based jurisdiction where up to 30 per cent of our GDP comes from minerals, ... this investment doesn't only impact northerners and benefits to us,” he said.

The development could represent "billions of dollars if not hundreds of billions," he said.

“This is important not just to us, but everybody.” Schumann said.

Following the environmental review, the road project is expected to cost $1.1 billion.

Bathurst Caribou impacts

Schumman said concerns over the infrastructure project cleaving through key and adversely affecting Bathurst Caribou ground will be be addressed through the environmental reviews.

He added that studying the impacts on the herd — which had its population count drop by half in last year's count — would be “front and centre of what we have to do to get this thing through the regulatory process.”

Since 2015, the Bathurst herd has halved from 20,000 animals to 8,200.