All-season Road to Whati Gets Federal Funding

The government will pay 25 percent of the cost through the P3 Canada Fund.

NWT flag

The federal government has announced it will pay 25 percent of the cost of building an all-season road to Whati, N.W.T., through the P3 Canada Fund.

The 97-kilometre gravel road will provide uninterrupted access to Whati, with an estimated population of around 500, that is currently only accessible by a winter ice road three months of the year.

“The road to Whati will create a lot of opportunities. There will be work… the cost of living will be a little less, and there’s also opportunity for businesses,” said Alfonz Nitsiza, chief of Whati.

“It will be cheaper to go in and out of the community,” he added.

The project, that has been previously estimated to cost around $150-million, will also receive additional funding from the territorial government, contingent on approval by the legislative assembly, and the private sector.

“The all-weather road will provide Whatì residents with year round access to employment opportunities in the south, the ability to purchase goods and services at significantly cheaper rates and increase the attractiveness of the area for development,” Michael V. McLeod, Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories said.

The road is expected to extend ice road access to Wekweeti and Gameti, communities north of Whati, by up to a month each year.

It will also help provide access to Fortune Minerals’ (TSX: FT) NICO project, a significant gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper deposit roughly 50 kilometres northeast of Whati.

Robin Goad, Fortune Minerals’ president, said: “Fortune Minerals has been working cooperatively for many years with the Government of the Northwest Territories and Tlicho (Indigenous) Government on an all-weather highway solution to benefit all stakeholders.

“The timing of this announcement is opportune as cobalt prices continue to firm as the market expands with the next phase of lithium-ion battery commercialization to service more than 14 battery megafactories announced or under construction, including the $5 billion Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Giga-Factory in Nevada.”

NICO Mine has already received a water licence and land use permit, and successfully undergone an environmental assessment.

David Massola, Fortune’s vice president of finance and CFO, said: “With cobalt and gold prices firming, and greater certainty of an all-season road, Fortune is well-positioned to secure the financing needed to begin construction of the NICO mine.”

The NICO mine could also help bring more mining jobs for the region, and residents see it as an opportunity to grow.

“We have housing problems, and we talk about loss of language, culture, way of life… And it seems we’re never going to have enough money to fix these problems, so the only way to fix some of these problems is to get some sort of revenue coming in, and that means development,” Nitsiza said.

“Self government is all about self-sustaining. We’ve got to pay our way.”

The GNWT will release the request for qualifications in February, which will begin the search for contractors to build the road.

“We’d like to see some work start even as early as this winter,” said Wally Schumann, the territory’s transportation minister.

The 29-year contract is not expected to be awarded until the summer of 2018 and a timeline for when the project will be completed was not immediately provided, but is expected to last up to four years.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: Fortune Minerals is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.

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