The N.W.T. government says it hopes to file an application this March with the Tlicho region's land and water board for the permits needed to build an all weather road from Behchoko to Whati.
"We are currently finalizing the document and seeking [cabinet] approvals to submit the application for permitting," said Ioana Spiridonica, a spokesperson for the N.W.T.'s Department of Transportation.
The 94-kilometre highway, with an estimated price tag of up to $150 million, is one of six major "priority" projects outlined in the government's 2015 transportation strategy.
The Department of Transportation gave residents in the Tlicho region its latest update on the project earlier this month.
The vast majority of the road would be built on previously disturbed land currently used by trappers and woodcutters.
To avoid collisions with wildlife, the speed limit would be capped at 50 kilometres an hour, and when caribou are spotted, the road will temporarily close.
Road is 'essential' for potential nearby mine
Fortune Minerals is trying to raise money to open the NICO base metals mine located about 49 kilometres north of Whati.
"A road [to Whati] is...essential to supply the NICO mine and allow metal concentrates to be trucked south for processing to value-added products," said Robin Goad, the president of Fortune Minerals.
The company says the government's commitment toward building a road to Whati helps the company raise money for the NICO project.
A report summarizing public feedback about the territorial government's transportation strategy raised the possibility of asking companies to help pay the cost of public infrastructure, but also mentioned fears about the impact of industrial activity on public roads.
"Considerable concern was expressed about industry transportation impacts on public highway infrastructure," said the report.
"Further, most interviewees felt that some form of industry contribution should be made towards new public highway construction, rebuilding, and the maintenance of existing public highways.
"Industry financial contributions should be based on calculated impact and could be in the form of up-front financial contributions, lease arrangements, or tolls based on usage."
The territorial government says a P3 model is being considered for the highway. The government says an independent firm returned a positive cost-benefit analysis for the project but says the report won't be released to the public until the Department of Transportation is done reviewing it.
Construction could take up to four years.