The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board has recommended that the Tlicho all-season road be approved subject to measures designed to mitigate potential environmental, social, and cultural impacts. The Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Transportation and Tlicho Government received this conditional approval on March 29, 2018, enabling construction of the 97-kilometre Tlicho Road to connect the community of Whatì to the territorial highway system.
Fortune Minerals Limited has already received environmental assessment approval to build a 49-kilometre spur road from Whati to its proposed NICO mine. Together, these roads will allow the Company to transport metal concentrates from the mine to its proposed refinery in Saskatchewan for downstream processing to cobalt sulphate, gold, bismuth ingots and oxide, and copper precipitate to support the growing green economy.
The Tlicho Road project consists of 97 kilometres of new two-lane gravel roadway from Highway 3 to the community of Whatì, including four bridges and one large arched culvert. The GNWT Department of Transportation has been working closely with the Tlicho Government since 2012 on this road initiative to provide reliable year-round all-weather public road access to the community of Whatì and improved winter road access to the communities of Gamètì and Wekweèti and mitigate the impacts of climate change. The routing for the Tlicho Road follows an existing brownfield land-based winter road route to minimize environmental disturbance and lower construction costs. Establishment of the road will reduce the cost of living and improve the quality of life in the outlying Tlicho communities and provide a catalyst for economic development in the region.
In January 2017, the Government of Canada announced it will provide up to 25 per cent of the construction costs for the Tlicho Road through the Canada Infrastructure Fund. The GNWT subsequently approved funding for the remaining 75 per cent of the cost through a Private-Public Partnership. Three qualified consortia of international finance and construction companies were short-listed in September of 2017 to provide bids to design, build, operate, and maintain the road over a 29-year period and be repaid with interest by the GNWT. Subject to requisite approvals and licensing, it is expected that the Tlicho Road tender will be selected by the fourth quarter of 2018 and commencement of construction is targeted for early 2019. The report of environmental assessment can be viewed on the Review Board website using the following link (view report here).
The cost of the road had been previously estimated at around $150 million. No updated cost was provided as part of this announcement.