Canada: China would benefit most from billion-dollar, 700-km highway through Canadian Arctic, critics say - PressFrom - Canada
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CanadaChina would benefit most from billion-dollar, 700-km highway through Canadian Arctic, critics say

16:22  23 august  2019
16:22  23 august  2019 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Anablak said many of the supplies his Nunavut communities need, including groceries, are The total cost of the road and port is estimated at about billion . The final road would run nearly Schumann said Indigenous governments will be involved throughout and may end up owning or operating the road.

Critics say that a vessel normally dedicated to science should not be enabling tourism in an area like the Arctic , acknowledged by many to be one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change. Global warming has seen a rapid rise in the number of ships travelling through Arctic waters in recent years.

China would benefit most from billion-dollar, 700-km highway through Canadian Arctic, critics say © Lynn Martel Snow ploughs keep the metre-plus thick ice road on Yellowknife Bay clear for traffic.

Questions are being raised about plans to build a $1-billion, 700-km highway from Yellowknife to a proposed port on Nunavut’s Arctic coast, paid for by Canadians but which critics say would largely serve Chinese government interests.

Last week, Transport Minister Marc Garneau pledged more than $50 million to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to study the feasibility of a highway to replace ice roads that are no longer reliable amid climate change.

While local leaders applaud the funding, critics say the largest benefit would go to a mining company, MMG, which is controlled by the Chinese government and holds several mineral deposits in the region where the highway would be built.

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America and its friends benefit from falling oil prices; its most strident critics don’t. More generally, says Lin Boqiang of Xiamen University, lower prices should support the government’s efforts to reduce subsidies (it has already freed some gas prices, and But the benefits would be muted twice over.

The China National Highways (CNH/Guodao) (simplified Chinese : 中华人民共和国国道; traditional Chinese : 中華人民共和國國道; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó Guódào)

“It is worth flagging to people that the main beneficiary will be the Chinese government, more so than the government of Nunavut or the government of Canada,” says Michael Byers, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law. “This is for the mining projects and nothing else.”

Byers does not see a problem with a Chinese-controlled company operating mines in Canada, but he wonders if the company will be allowed to bring in Chinese workers to build the road and if Canadian taxpayers should foot the bill. As governments plan to increase access to natural resources, he says, “We think we’re stumbling into a lot of easy money when in fact the costs are very high and in some cases actually exceed the benefit.”

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The proposed route would open up the Slave Geological Province, which contains unexplored zinc and copper deposits, said the mining company MMG in a statement last week.

“On behalf of MMG, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Canadian government for their support and funding,” said CEO Geoffrey Gao in the statement.

The route would be more than 100 kilometres away from the nearest communities, Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay. Still, Stanley Anablak, president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, says the highway would lower their costs for everything from building materials to loaves of bread, which cost between $6 and $10 at northern stores.

His association represents five communities, which he says are the last to be serviced when a ship from Quebec arrives with supplies once per year. He says his association would also profit from the highway tolls, and he argues Canadians — rather than the Chinese — should pay for the construction to ensure the road is available to the public, not only mining companies.

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Through the Belt and Road Initiative, China 's Arctic policy poses a challenge, not a threat, to the U.S., according to experts. "The Arctic situation now goes beyond its original inter- Arctic States or regional nature, having a vital bearing on the interests of States outside the region and the interests of

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“Canadian taxpayers have been paying for highways in the southern part of Canada,” Anablak says. “Our organization’s trying to create jobs that are badly needed up here.”

The first all-weather road across the Arctic Circle, the Dempster Highway, was a 20-year project completed in 1979, fulfilling former prime minister John Diefenbaker’s vision for an accessible Arctic two days after he died.

China would benefit most from billion-dollar, 700-km highway through Canadian Arctic, critics say © Ben Nelms/Bloomberg Ice roads, like this one shown in an aerial photo near Yellowknife,are no longer considered reliable due to the warming climate.

The estimated cost of constructing the new highway from Yellowknife is $1 billion, but the cost is uncertain due to the challenge of building on melting permafrost.

“The problem with (permafrost) is, if you tear into it just like you do a regular road-building project, you’ll wind up with just a bunch of melting mud,” says Lake Pickell, general manager of Arctic Construction, a contractor with headquarters in British Columbia that has built all-weather roads in the Yukon. “You might have a big grassy plain, and it looks quite beautiful, but if you tear into it … it’ll start to thaw out, and then now it’s black, and it’s thawing, and the sun’s being attracted to it, and you’ve created this open sore in the tundra.”

The highway would require contractors to lay down geotextile matting to circulate cool air to the ground beneath the new road, says Pickell. He says this type of road could withstand melting permafrost and can even be built atop swamps. To avoid digging into the permafrost, contractors would haul material from off-site and use a bulldozer to compress it.

“You dump, and you ‘doze, and you keep just working your way ahead,” he says.

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