Warming climate helps north Canada miners ship supplies, melts locals' ice roads

Wed Mar 9, 2016 11:53am EST
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By Chris Arsenault

TORONTO, March 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global warming is making it easier for resource companies to ship supplies through Arctic waterways in northern Canada, but harder for remote communities to truck in food on winter ice roads, mining industry officials and indigenous leaders said.

Shifting transportation patterns in the far north due to the changing climate are expected to reduce the cost of mining and other projects in once frozen coastal areas, while raising the price of goods for residents and businesses operating inland.

Ice roads, built on frozen waterways, have until recently provided crucial winter transportation links to northern communities which have no regular road access.

But rising temperatures are melting the ice sooner, making it harder to maintain the roads, cutting communities' crucial supply lines and forcing some to use aircraft to bring in food early and late in the winter.

Many of the people living in northern Canada are indigenous and a high proportion are poor, so will find it hard to meet higher transportation costs for food and other essentials.

Indigenous Inuit, once referred to as Eskimos, make up more than 80 percent of the roughly 35,000 population of Nunavut, Canada's northernmost, biggest and least populated territory.

Like many northern Canada residents, they live on "country food" including seals, moose, caribou and other animals hunted on the land, and on food brought in by boat, aircraft or trucks using ice roads.

"The winter road season for our communities in northern Ontario grows shorter every year due to climate change," Chief Isadore Day, an indigenous leader, told delegates at a mining conference in Toronto.   Continued...