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Design work on long awaited road to central Arctic tundra to begin

A truck heads toward the sunset on the Lupin winter road in Canada's Northwest Territories on Feb. 18, 2001. Built over frozen lakes, the Lupin ice highway exists for about three months, in the harshest season of the year, in a region that has no other roads.
A truck heads toward the sunset on the Lupin winter road in Canada's Northwest Territories on Feb. 18, 2001. Built over frozen lakes, the Lupin ice highway exists for about three months, in the harshest season of the year, in a region that has no other roads. AP Photo/Bob Green

Northern leaders are cheering after Ottawa announced funding to begin planning and design work for a long-awaited road into the heart of Canada’s mineral-rich Arctic.

Liberal MP Paul Lefebvre has told a mining conference in Toronto the federal government will kick in more than $5 million to start work on an all-season road into the centre of the Northwest Territories.

READ MORE: Climate change to cause more damage to Canada’s northern roads than previously feared

Building a road into the so-called Slave Geological Province has been discussed since John Diefenbaker was prime minister in the early 1960s.

N.W.T.’s minister of industry and infrastructure calls the announcement a great first step to opening up what he says is one of the richest areas of the country.

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Last year, the federal government committed $570 million over 10 years for roads and other infrastructure in the N.W.T.

The last link of the Dempster, from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, was opened last summer.

READ MORE: Battle for Arctic resources heats up as ice recedes

Cars are seen on the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk highway on November 15, 2017 in Inuvik, Canada.
Cars are seen on the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk highway on November 15, 2017 in Inuvik, Canada. Melinda Trochu/AFP/Getty Images

Estimates suggest the road could unlock $45 billion in mineral resources.

READ MORE: Climate change may impact vital roads, First Nations leaders say

Schumann says construction of the first section of the road could start within five years.