Grays Bay port and road project has new proponent

By David Lochead, Nunatsiaq News - November 30, 2023

West Kitikmeot Gold Corp. receives transfer of around C$20M to help with permitting process

West Kitikmeot Gold Corp. CEO Brendan Bell, left, stands with Kitikmeot Inuit Association board member Randy Hinanik; Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary to the minister of northern affairs; Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson; and Stephanie Hébert, assistant deputy minister for Transport Canada. The photo was taken Nov. 22, when federal funding was transferred to West Kitikmeot Gold to help with the permitting process for the Grays Bay road and port project. (Photo: Claudine Santos via Nunatsiaq News)

There is a new proponent pushing the Grays Bay port and road project forward.

“It’s an exciting day for us, but it’s really the first step,” said Brendan Bell, CEO of West Kitikmeot Gold Corp., an Inuit-owned exploration company.

His company recently received C$20 million to help with the project’s permitting process.

The money, which comes from the federal government, originally went to the project’s former proponent, Kitikmeot Inuit Association. The association transferred the sum to West Kitikmeot Gold on Nov. 22 under the agreement that the company become the main proponent.

KIA backed out as the project’s proponent in January.

Bell said he hopes Grays Bay port and road — a 230-kilometre all-season road and deepsea port that would link western Nunavut’s mineral-rich region to the rest of Canada — will be ready for construction in about four years.

Grays Bay has been estimated to cost C$550 million. But with the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, that number changed.

“[Costs are now] north of that,” Bell said.

He said he imagines a financing model made up of the federal government taking on 75 per cent of the capital and the other 25 per cent privately funded.

“I love that Canada is making an earnest and renewed commitment to Arctic infrastructure,” Bell said.

“I think they are seized with the need for critical minerals development.”

Grays Bay road would serve a particularly mineral rich part of Nunavut. Some politicians and industry leaders have expressed concern that the draft land-use plan for the territory could lock away those minerals from development.

When asked about this, Bell said mining companies do have concerns but the plan is “not yet set in stone.”

He also said West Kitikmeot Gold’s ownership has experience with the project permitting process.

“It’s not a completely new concept to us,” he said.

In that vein, Bell expressed a desire to design Grays Bay in a way that is supported by Kitikmeot Inuit. That means bringing Inuit in to get their thoughts on possible impacts to wildlife, marine mammals, flora and fauna.

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson witnessed West Kitikmeot Gold take over the project at an event he hosted in Ottawa on Parliament Hill.

Patterson pointed out that having more infrastructure in the North will help increase Arctic sovereignty, adding senior officials from the United States embassy were at the event.

He said he has met several times with David Cohen, the US ambassador to Canada.

“[Cohen] is very interested in the North and very interested in this project for sovereignty and security reasons,” Patterson said.

Nunatsiaq News is the newspaper of record for Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec. It has been published since 1973 and reaches 50,000 readers in 39 eastern Arctic communities each week through its website and weekly e-editions. Its editorial team offers credible, in-depth, award-winning journalism, drawing readers from northern and southern Canada and around the world. Nunatsiaq News is owned by Nortext Publishing Corp., which maintains offices in Iqaluit and Ottawa.