Canadian Arctic Resource Committee


Briefing Note:  Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Project (BIPAR)


and impacts on species in the Slave Geological Province (SGP)

(NWT and Nunavut)



I)                    Background on SGP


a)    Intro to Region- Land, Wildlife and Communities

b)    Mining in the Region

c)    Roads in the Region


II)                  Slave Geological Province Transportation Corridor


a)    A History of Studies

b)    Political Context

c)    Need for the Road

d)    Current Proposals

e)    Estimated Costs

f)      Environmental Scoping



I) Background on SGP


a) Intro to Region: Land, Wildlife and Communities:






b) Mining in the Region:







c) Roads in the Region:









II) Slave Geological Province Transportation Corridor


a) A History of “Studies”


§         A transportation corridor through the SGP was first suggested in 1955 by the NWT’s Commissioner, R. G.Roberston.


§         In the late 1970’s DIAND undertook an analysis of future transportation in the region with an emphasis on promoting mining development.


§         In 1989 the Government of the NWT Department of Transport (DOT) was created.  DOT developed a long-term Transportation Strategy in 1990 that included building an Arctic Coast transportation corridor through the Slave Geological Province.  The SGP transportation corridor has been high on the GNWT’s agenda ever since, and was included as a priority in the 1994 Transportation Strategy update. 


§         In 1994 GNWT spent $1.2 million to study the potential of roads through the SGP.  In 1995 DOT produced a report on potential economic scenarios and the benefits of an all-weather road to the Arctic Coast.


§         As part of the 1998 Highway Strategy, the GNWT DOT was allocated $2 million dollars to conduct preliminary studies on 4 priority road projects, including the SGP Transportation Corridor.  Studies were conducted in the SGP on Need/Feasibility, Mapping and Route Analysis, Cost Estimates, and Preliminary Environmental Scoping.  Reports were produced in 1999.  A fifth study on economic impact and benefit cost analysis for the SGP was undertaken in 2000.


§         As part of a push for “stakeholder involvement” in 1998 the GNWT gave preliminary planning workshops and set up a SGP Transportation Corridor Advisory Committee.  Committee representatives include NWT business organizations, NWT and Nunavut Aboriginal groups including the Kitikmeot Corporation (Charlie Lyall), the Nunavut Government, and Ecology North.


§         In Nunavut, the BIPAR project is being spearheaded by the Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Joint Venture, owned by the Kitikmeot Corporation (50%) and Nuna Logistics Corporation (50%) which in turn is owned by the Kitikmeot Corporation (25.5%), Nunasi Corporation (25.5%) and 49% by the managers.  Together with the Government of Nunavut and Nuna Logistics, they form the Project Technical Committee which is applying for funding, conducting feasibility studies and promoting the idea.  The total capital cost of the project is very conservatively estimated at about $220 million while previous studies have suggested costs of over a $500 million.  Former partner Inmet Mining Corporation (owners of the Izok Lake base metal mine) pulled out of the deal in early 2003, citing falling base metal prices.


§         In 2001 INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs) provided $3.008 million to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA) to conduct a BIPAR feasibility study. $1.839 million was to be provided in first year and $1.169 million over the 3 remaining years.  Six million dollars in total was put up by the Kititmeot Corporation (the business arm of the KIA), territorial and federal government departments, Inmet, BHP and Diavik to study the Bathurst Inlet project.  A preliminary project description was submitted by the Joint Venture to the Nunavut Impact Review Board in April 2002.  The Board has suggested a Part 5, NIRB only review of this project but the final decision is up the DIAND Minister.  The GNWT, several Aboriginal communities, MVEIRB, CARC and WWF have all stongly urged that a Part 6, federal environmental assessment panel, be used.


b) Political Context


§         There are considerable financial and engineering impediments to building a highway through the Slave Geological Province, including the enormous cost, and technical difficulty of crossing permafrost, many large lakes (especially Contwoyto Lake) and rivers, and the topography of the rocky region.  This is presumably why the project has consistently been shelved by the federal government.  The GNWT DOT has ardently supported this transportation corridor since its creation.  The Department of Transport has responded to federal disinterest by commissioning studies and reports to keep the idea alive.  However, with increased exploration and mining activity in the region, it is becoming more likely that the federal government will fund such a mega-project.


§         There are also significant social and environmental concerns to the SGP transportation corridor, such as unresolved land claims and threats to the Bathurst caribou herd, not to mention the corridor’s potential to increase mining operations.  These are probably not the main reasons the federal government has not funded the project.


§         Since the 1999 creation of Nunavut the SGP is divided between the two territories.  The road as currently configured ends close to the border between them, but some traffic would flow both ways.  Should the BIPAR proceed, it would likely become the main resupply route for the mines and communities in the area, disrupting existing resupply business run from the NWT.


c) Need for the Road?







d) Current Proposals








e) Estimated Costs:


§         Estimated costs of a SGP highway corridor from Great Slave Lake north of Yellowknife to Bathurst Inlet on the Arctic Coast are between $380 and $600 million for approximately 850 km of road, with higher estimates more likely.  These estimates do not take into consideration land acquisition costs or royalties paid to Aboriginal landowners. Land acquisition costs are likely to be minimal as most of the route will be on federal Crown lands.  There may be some minor costs associated with access to Aboriginal-owned surface lands.  No new estimates of cost were made public with the alteration of the project to reduce the length of the road.


§         Recent estimates (by UMA engineering Ltd.) state that the portion of road between Bathurst Inlet to the Southern end of Contwoyto Lake near Lupin would cost approximately $180 million for about 290 km of road (some studies say 235 km and others say 290 km- this depends upon the exact route).  This is certainly optimistic.


§         Costs per km are estimated at between $500,000 and $550,000.


§         Road maintenance costs are estimated at $11 million/ year for the entire (Bathurst to NWT) route.


§         Cost estimates to construct the Bathurst deep sea port are approximately $50 million.


§         Port maintenance costs are estimated at $3 million/ year.


§         Among DIAND, the NWT government, the Nunavut government and interested mines, almost $10 million has already been spent on studying the BIPAR idea.  This does not include projects such as hydographic mapping of the area, which are important pre-requisites for shipping connected to mine resupply and concentrate transport and development.  For example, $2.7 million was spent on completing hydrographic surveys of the Coronation Gulf between 1994 and 1998 by the NWT and federal governments with private partnerships.


f) Environmental Scoping






§          Environmental Scoping concluded:

·         Significant further consultations needed to address issues of need and purpose of the road, location of port and corridor, and concerns regarding Bathurst caribou herd

·         Need for more Baseline Data collection

·         Significant amount of additional data would be needed for Cumulative Effects Assessment


§         The report cited the following regulatory and environmental reviews that might be required:

·         Federal legislation (Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), and regulations and the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA)

·         Environmental assessment processes established in each territory (NWT) and review under Nunavut Land Claim Settlement Act (NLCSA)

·         Review by a joint panel


§         The report indicates it is likely for an environmental assessment to take at least 5 years.