2018 could be the year when it gets much easier to move large amounts of cargo into and out of remote communities in Ontario's far north.
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout, Township of Pickle Lake, as well as industry like Noront Resources, Morgan Fuels and CN Rail want to move forward on a new trans-load facility, in Sioux Lookout, Ont.
The facility would allow cargo to be taken off of trains and loaded onto transports and vice-versa, making it easier to bring large shipments of cargo into northern communities. It would also allow for minerals to be shipped out of the Ring of Fire and onto rail cars.
"The litre of fuel is easy to move down the street, [but] when you start adding in uncontrollable factors like roads and that, no matter how hard a community works, there's still things that they can't control," said Alan Howie, the general manager of Morgan Fuels.
The northwestern Ontario-based company delivers fuel to remote communities, and knows the challenges that come with delivering large amounts of cargo to far-flung areas.
"That makes it the real challenge. Logistically, you're looking at an hour's worth of work becomes two days worth of work," said Howie.
For the municipality, the new facility would mean new jobs, and a tax base that could lean on industry, instead of the service-based economy it has now, said Vicki Blanchard, the Economic Development Manager in Sioux Lookout.
"Sioux Lookout was very strategically positioned for a change to be at the beginning of the road versus the end of the road for far north development."
The challenge going forward is re-zoning the vacant parcel of land, which sits between the CN mainline and Highway 642. The municipality, until this point, had no available industrial land.
Blanchard said it was important to get the land piece figured out, so development can take place.
"A lot of the businesses, or the industry, had purchased up most of that available land. So, we're being proactive and going out to our industry partners and developing with our industry partners along with their plans in moving forward."