US Embassy to host meeting on NWT-Nunavut highway
The Northwest Territories’ infrastructure minister will attend a US Embassy-hosted meeting this week about a road between the NWT and Nunavut.
Thursday’s meeting at the embassy in Ottawa is expected to feature a briefing by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association about a deepwater port at Grays Bay, western Nunavut, the NWT government said.
The Kitikmeot Inuit Association, or KIA, has been pursuing a port at Grays Bay for years. However, the association recently said it would no longer serve as the project’s proponent, stating that a nation-building project of that size “should be funded by government, not by regional Inuit associations.”
The port comes with a proposal to build a road connecting Grays Bay to the Tibbitt-Contwoyto winter road across the border in the NWT, eventually creating an all-season highway between Yellowknife and the Arctic coast.
The intention is that Grays Bay becomes a shipping hub for mines and exploration while supporting nearby communities, but the project can only happen if many hundreds of millions of dollars are found.
On the NWT side of the border, the plan to build an all-season road toward Nunavut is known as the Slave Geological Province Corridor.
In a statement by email on Monday, the territorial government said infrastructure minister Diane Archie had been invited to attend Thursday’s meeting at the US Embassy.
While the KIA was awarded federal funding for some Grays Bay planning work, what happens to that cash now that the association no longer considers itself the proponent is not clear.
“We are in the process of speaking with government officials and industry representatives and assisting in trying to identify a new proponent,” KIA president Robert Greenley said in a statement in March.
Greenley said the KIA was working with Transport Canada to see if other organizations could receive the funding it had been awarded.
For its part, the NWT government said it was “working to prepare a regulatory application for the advancement of the Lockhart All-Season Road,” which it says would be the first phase of the Slave Geological Province highway.
That first phase would extend Highway 4 by 179 km from its current Tibbitt Lake terminus to Lockhart Lake, which is a staging point on the winter road to and from the territory’s diamond mines.
The GNWT says it has so far received $30 million from the federal government to begin environmental planning and engineering for the road, and has committed a further $10 million of its own.
An eventual second phase of the all-season road would extend it to the diamond mines, then a third phase would take the highway to the Nunavut border. Without the Grays Bay project, however, there would be nothing for such a highway to join.