Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad
Cash needed for Bathurst road and port

Thorunn Howatt
Northern News Services

Cambridge Bay (Aug 19/02) - Some Kitikmeot leaders hoped to get Ottawa's attention last week. They want cash for a proposed Bathurst road and port project.

"It is the intention to hopefully get the money out of the strategic infrastructure fund," said Keith Peterson, mayor of Cambridge Bay and a member of the group pushing for the road and port project.

The federal government has set aside $2 billion for major infrastructure projects. It's still deciding exactly how to divvy the cash up to all areas of the country.

The Kitikmeot group met with about six federal government divisions including Natural Resources Canada and the Department of Northern and Indian Affairs.

"We are going to be putting a proposal in as a highway."

If an ongoing feasibility study pans out then construction could start on a road and port in less than two years. The project would include a deep sea port about 50 kilometres from Cambridge Bay. A road would stretch about 200 kilometres southward to Contwoyto Lake where there is a winter road to Yellowknife. There are no other major highways in Nunavut.

Peterson was in the country's capital city with Nuna Logistic's Merv Hempenstall, Kitikmeot Corporation's Charlie Lyall and the manager of the Bathurst road and port project, Tony Keen. The group is on a mission to explain the project to politicians and government officials -- and hopefully catch the attention of someone holding the purse-strings. But they are just the technical committee.

"The Government of Nunavut are the guys who will be doing the heavy-duty lobbying," said Peterson, adding that Nunavut Finance Minister Kelvin Ng was in Ottawa just two weeks before discussing the $216 million program.

A road and port project would be a two-way street opening up the Kitikmeot.

Fuel and equipment could be shipped in, then ships would turn around and take ore concentrates south from mines for processing.

One reason for port development is to help mining companies in the area.

There is potential for a zinc mine at Izok Lake, located 83 kilometres west of the Lupin gold mine. That property is owned by Inmet Mining Corporation.

The area is believed to contain one of the richest deposits of zinc, copper, lead and silver in North America.

"It's not just a road and port independent of Inmet Mining. They have to do their part," said Peterson. Inmet has agreed to pay for part of the venture and a road-use toll is being considered as a way of financing the road.

Last month a road and port committee met to set out a work timeline. Between now and December they will go to conferences, chase the federal government, make presentations and do everything they can to raise awareness of the project.

One year ago Robert Nault, minister of Northern and Indian affairs, went to Cambridge Bay with a gift of $3 million to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association to support a feasibility study and environmental assessment of the Bathurst road and port project.

Last month, the road and port committee visited Alaska's Red Dog mine and its related road and port. They were impressed with how successful the aboriginally-run undertaking was. It is operated by Alaska's Inupiat Eskimos.

"For the most part, they are pretty happy with things and what it provides for them," said Peterson.