Eight routes identified
Routes to resources to be released in next few weeks

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 15/99) - Though eight routes have been identified in a study on building a road north to the barrenlands, it will be a few weeks until the public gets to see them.

The multi-level mapping and route analysis study, as it is known, will be completed within the month, said Department of Transportation director of planning Masood Hassan.

"They have identified four potential routes starting in the Yellowknife area and four potential routes starting in the Rae area," said Hassan.

"We don't think we should release those routes until the report is complete and submitted," he said.

There's a great deal of interest in the routes. Though the department has insisted the road is strictly in the conceptual stage, the communities of Yellowknife and Rae-Edzo are competing to be the departure point for the road.

One issue central to the routing will be the purpose of the road. Yellowknife Mayor Dave Lovell recently noted that if the road is to serve a social purpose, it makes sense that it depart from Rae, since three Dogrib communities are just north. Lovell maintained that if the road is to be economic, it makes sense that it leave from Yellowknife.

Hassan said right now, the road is planned to serve the business of mining.

"Under the current highway strategy, the studies are being conducted to explore a potential road...to serve the purpose of mineral development," said Hassan.

A draft of a needs/feasibility study is due to be completed at the end of February or beginning of March.

"The needs/feasibility study will indicate what are the likely mineral development scenarios in the Slave Geological Province," said Hassan. "That will give us some kind of indication what kind of road will be needed, when and by whom."

Hassan said those conducting the study are consulting companies with mineral interests in the area.

"We already know, for example, BHP is functioning very well with the existing winter road and that the proposed Diavik mine can proceed with the existing winter road."

BHP spokesperson Graham Nicholls said the company plans to haul about 1,400 loads, 25 trucks a day, up the winter road during each year of operations.

Diavik plans to deliver between 2,200 and 2,400 loads a year during the construction of its mine, and 1,500 to 1,700 during the operations phase.

Three other diamond projects in the diamond fields could become mines in the coming years. If they do, all would be making use of the winter road.