Canada Makes Progress in Two of its Major Arctic Projects

Grays Bay and Coronation Gulf are near the midpoint of the Northwest Passage (KWRG)
Grays Bay and Coronation Gulf are near the midpoint of the Northwest Passage (KWRG)

Published Jun 30, 2024 10:52 PM by The Maritime Executive


After long delays, Canada is racing to complete two of its critical Arctic projects, with the country looking to open up and strengthen the infrastructure of the region. Last week, West Kitikmeot Resources (WKR) Corp. refiled for an environment assessment of the Canada’s massive Grays Bay Road and Port (GBRP) project. The proposed infrastructure corridor is situated along the Canadian central Arctic coast in the middle of the Northwest Passage.

WKR is majority owned by the indigenous community group Kitikmeot Inuit Association(KIA), in Canada’s Arctic territory of Nunavut. As the lead developer of the GBRP project since last year, WKR has been working to complete the project’s scope, initially proposed by KIA and the Government of Nunavut in 2017.

WKR refiling for the environmental assessment process marks the restart of the GBRP project, which has stalled for years. The project is a multi-purpose infrastructure corridor designed to link southern Canada and the mineral rich Kitikmeot region in the northern territory of Nunavut.

Notably, the project will see development of Canada’s first deep-water port in western Arctic with two wharfs, designed to load large vessels of the post-Panamax class and an adjacent small craft harbor for community use. In its first phase, GBRP includes a 230-kilometer all-weather road connecting into Slave Geological Province in northwestern Nunavut. The geological area is rich in mineral deposits such as copper, zinc and gold. Most importantly, the road will connect several winter roads to the capital of Northwest Territories Yellowknife, becoming the first road from the central Arctic coast to Southern Canada.

"We've had a typical chicken-and-egg problem," WKR's Brendan Bell told CBC. "World-class discoveries of high grade are made, but they haven't been expanded to understand the scale because there's no infrastructure. We believe with the new momentum behind the infrastructure you'll see a lot of expansion of those resources." 

Besides the economic advantages, Grays Bay Port has the potential to become an important deep-water naval facility between Alaska and Greenland. Its location in the middle of the Northwest Passage could not be more critical, with the route recording an increase in the number of commercial vessels as Arctic ice retreats.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Department of National Defense has indicated that the long-awaited Nanisivik naval refueling station in the High Arctic could open as early as this summer. The $84 million naval facility, located on the northwestern coast of Baffin Island, has minimal work remaining before it can begin operations. The naval outpost was to be completed in 2015, but was scaled back for budgetary reasons. It is designed to accommodate Arctic patrol ships and other government affiliated vessels in need of refueling.