Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Highway for Mining from NWT to Nunavut?

Road to coast preferable to highway
Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 20, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - In Lou Covello's mind, the NWT and Nunavut chamber's most controversial suggestion is not the development of mining towns but the construction of a road through the Slave Geological Province - host to a considerable concentration of mineral deposits - from Yellowknife to the Coronation Gulf.

The proposed road would be more economically rewarding than the Mackenzie Valley Highway, said Covello, the president of the NWT Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

"What we're trying to do here is create economic activity," he said. "It's our belief that the Mackenzie Valley is going to be very limited in its options in the future. They've just lost a huge area to a national park and a lot of it is your most prospective ground. There's no possibility of it ever being of benefit."

According to the Mackenzie Gas Project Office, the pipeline is expected to create thousands of construction jobs, but once the pipeline is operational, only between 45 to 55 long-term jobs, plus an additional 35 to 45 contract positions, will be available.

"Compare that to one mine - which has 500, 600, 700 jobs available. Compare it to (a national park) - you go to Paulatuk, maybe six jobs a year. Fort Smith - same deal," said Covello.

"If we're proven wrong, we're proven wrong," said Vaydik. "But we think make a very strong case for developing something that produces an economy rather than something, like the Mackenzie Valley route, that provides services for a very small segment of the population, (and) really, doesn't significantly add to the economy."

Brendan Bell, former minister of Tourism, Industry and Investment and partner in a newly-formed consultancy called Northern Strategy Group, said both projects have merit but it's unlikely both would receive funding.

"I think the mining industry would say we need to open the Slave Geological Province and I fully agree with that," said Bell. "I think we also need a road up the Mackenzie. If you talk to the energy industry, they're going to be much more interested in that because of the exploration potential.

"At some point, government and industry leaders are going to recognize that we can't do it all. There are limited funds to go around."

Covello and Vaydik said they intend to hire a third-party consultant to estimate the cost of their plan, which also includes a road from Stoney Rapids, Sask., to Baker Lake; a railway from Mary River to the Foxe Basin, which Baffinland has already submitted as part of its mine plan; and a second railway from Howard's Pass to the Mackenzie River.

For now, said Vaydik, "We'll talk to anybody who can influence some progress on this."


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