The federal government has overlooked the Northwest Territories’ bid for funding to build a highway toward Nunavut.

The territorial government has for some years pursued development of a road north from Yellowknife, connecting both current and prospective mine sites – and eventually, in a far-distant project phase, reaching a deep-water port in Nunavut.

The project is entitled the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor.

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If built, the territory argues the road would reduce costs for existing diamond mines, make exploration for new mines much easier, and even help facilitate connection of the NWT to the southern power grid.

However, Ottawa has decided it’s not a priority.

On Friday, the territory issued a statement revealing the project had missed out on money from the federal National Trade Corridor Fund, or NTCF.

“The Government of Canada recently informed the Government of the Northwest Territories that potential funding for the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor was not approved in the first round of funding submissions,” said the territory in a news release.

“However, there will future funding opportunities under the NTCF at which time our government will reapply.”

‘It is unfortunate’

The news does not affect a second major highway project being proposed by the territory. The Mackenzie Valley Highway, which would connect Tuktoyaktuk’s Arctic port to the south via the NWT, is under consideration for cash from the same fund and no decision has yet been publicized.

“The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to securing meaningful investment in transportation infrastructure that will provide our residents the opportunity to contribute in greater capacity to the Canadian economy, and achieve economic self-determination,” said the territory in its statement.

Emphasizing lithium, nickel and cobalt as metals demanded by industries like electric vehicle manufacture, the territory said its proposals were both economically and environmentally sound.

Concerns have however been raised that the road would bisect the calving grounds of already-vulnerable Bathurst caribou.

“While it is unfortunate that funding for the Slave Geological Access Corridor was not approved in the first round, the GNWT is still committed to pursuing other sources of funding for this priority project,” the territory continued in Friday’s statement.

“We are looking forward to hearing from Canada on our funding application for the Mackenzie Valley Highway.”

The Slave Geological Province highway would not follow the same route as the existing winter road to the diamond mines.

According to the current proposal, the all-season road would swing east of the winter road from Ross Lake to Lockhart Lake, then cross the winter road’s route in an arc to the west of the Ekati mine before reaching the Nunavut border.