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Road and port not dead: Inuit group

Guy Quennevill
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 14, 2011

KINNGUAK/BATHURST - The Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Project may have been nixed by one potential user, but don't count it out just yet, says the president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA).

NNSL photo/graphic

The president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association says there's still hope for the Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Project. - photo courtesy of Nuna Logistics

While a recent cost estimate by MMG Resources deemed the project too costly for transporting material in and out of MMG's Izok Lake base metals project, there are other companies that could use the project down the road, said Charlie Evalik, president of the KIA.

The association wholly owns Kitikmeot Corporation, which, in partnership with Inuit-owned engineering firm Nuna Logistics, has been shepherding the project for years.

"I don't know if BIPAR is fully dead in terms of potential usage in the future on future projects," said Evalik, referring to Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation, which is developing the Hackett River base metals project 104 km south-southwest of Bathurst Inlet.

But with gold netting more than $1,300 an ounce, Sabina's main focus is currently on another project in the region, the Back River gold deposit - and that project would not require BIPAR, said Tony Walsh, president and CEO of Sabina.

"The thing about Hackett River and Izok Lake is that they produce a concentrate. You have to ship it out, whereas Back River would be gold and you can fly the gold bars out," said Walsh. "It would be nice to have a road and port (for Back River), but it wouldn't be necessary."

Sabina, which added "Gold" to its name in 2010, is spending $47 million this year on exploration work at its Kitikmeot projects, with 70 per cent of the money going to Back River.

"Because of the success that we're having on the gold side of Back River, we're moving down that path..." said Walsh. "Hackett River, because it's such a large project, we're in the process of looking for a strategic partner.

"They're running on slightly separate tracks at this point in time, with our focus more on the Back River side."

Money from a partner would help finance the pulling of a bulk sample from Hackett River, added Walsh. Talks with potential partners are underway, he said.

Evalik said he understands Sabina's focus on Back River. While still hopeful about Hackett River, he said it will take time for the project to develop.

"I think it's going to take a while because proving up Hackett River mineral reserves has to occur, and we understand that," said Evalik.

There may be other ways to monetize the port and the road project, he added.

"If BIPAR, for MMG, is not an option ... the joint venture ... could still get some work out of it, out of the transportation corridor if it's required on a contract basis," said Evalik.

In an interview with News/North earlier this month, Martin McFarlane, president and CEO of MMG, said the cost of a port and road specifically tailored to Izok Lake would be one half of the mine's cost, which is more than $1.25 billion.

If that's significantly higher than the $270 million estimate made by Kitikmeot Corporation and Nuna Logistics in late 2007, it's because there are a number of other costs associated with BIPAR that MMG would have to bear, said McFarlane.

That would include the cost of transporting concentrates across Contwoyto Lake, which stands between the Izok Lake project and the proposed road portion of BIPAR, not to mention wharfs, loading facilities and fuel storage tanks, said McFarlane on Thursday.

"There's a lot of stuff that we would have in our costs that they would not have in theirs," he said. "It's not a comparison of apples to apples."

A representative of Kitikmeot Corporation could not be reached for comment on whether the proponents have made a revised cost estimate of BIPAR since 2007.

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