The N.W.T. government denies a proposed all-weather road from Behchoko to Whati is a simple “subsidy to the mining industry.”
Fortune Minerals wants to mine for cobalt, bismuth and other minerals at a site almost 50 kilometres north of Whati. The company says an all-weather road from Whati to the existing highway network is critical to the mine going ahead, and has asked the territory to look at building one.
The territory believes the road is worthwhile and will cost around $150 million. Federal funding to help meet that cost has not yet arrived, but the project remains listed in the 2016-17 business plan for the N.W.T. Department of Transportation.
That business plan says building the road would “improve access to the community of Whatì and facilitate existing and future economic opportunities in the region.” An economic evaluation of the road, prepared in March last year, concludes the road’s benefits would outweigh its costs by around $12 million — but only if the mine goes into production and achieves the expected price for its output.
In the legislature this week, Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green questioned the road’s economic worth and suggested it had been pencilled in for development without full consultation among MLAs.
Addressing transportation minister Wally Schumann, she said: “The economic benefit of the road alone without the mine is so small. Is this road, in fact, a subsidy to the mining industry?”
Schumann, in response, said the road was no such thing and had been brought forward by the Tlicho Government. He says the full caucus of MLAs, including Green, approved the road’s inclusion in the government mandate months ago.
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