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'It's going to hurt them financially': Kugluktuk businesses still waiting for barge

A number of businesses in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, are still waiting for supplies as the barging season is coming to a close.

The owner of Coppermine Inn is waiting for $20k worth of goods, including wood pellets and food

Irene, left, and Kerry Horn own Coppermine Inn in Kugluktuk. Horn says they are waiting on a barge stuck in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. with $20,000 worth of goods. (Submitted by Kerry Horn )

The Mackenzie River barging season is coming to a close but businesses in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, are still waiting for supplies.

Kerry Horn, owner of the Coppermine Inn, says he is waiting for $20,000 worth of food, wood pellets and cleaning supplies, which are stuck in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. — a redistribution point once goods make it down the river.

Horn said he knows of several other projects and businesses in the community that are also waiting on supplies.

"We're actually a really a small player and the Coppermine Inn can take this hit and roll over but there are a lot of people depending on that barge and it's going to hurt them financially," said Horn, who has lived in the community for 48 years.

Marine Transportation Services (MTS) is wrapping up its second barging season after the territorial government bailed out Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) in 2016.

"[MTS] waited too late to make the push and now they are blaming it on the weather," Horn said. ""If they were not planning on icing conditions this time of year, they should have been. Being in that business and not being aware of ice conditions is no excuse at all."

The territorial government acquired NTCL's barges in 2016. (NTCL)

Mine depending on barges

The Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. also has concerns. The company is about to start construction on the Back River Gold Project, about 300 kilometres southeast of Kugluktuk, near Bathurst Inlet.

Matthew Pickard, the company's vice president of environment and sustainability, said it has already received two of three shipments by barges. One of the shipments was by a different company so as not to tie up MTS vessels.

Pickard said "full construction" of the mine depends on several more barges containing about 400,000 litres of fuel, heavy equipment, steel, vehicles and geotextile lining for containment systems.

Pickard said MTS told him the delays are because of  "pretty serious ice" blocking the shipping route out of Tuktoyaktuk.

"As long as the Canadian Coast Guard can provide ice breaking services we are quite confident we can still make this sealift," he said. "Should the coast not be willing to provide that service or not be able to provide that service then I would say we are extremely concerned..."

Freeze-up has started in Kugluktuk. The territorial Department of Infrastructure says final barges are expected to arrive in Kugluktuk by Oct. 5. (Submitted by Kerry Horn )

Coast guard assistance requested

The territorial Department of Infrastructure is responsible for MTS.

In an email statement to CBC, the department confirmed ice conditions have caused shipping delays in the western Arctic.

The statement said the territorial government has requested the Canadian Coast Guard's ice-breaking services and final barges are scheduled to arrive in Kugluktuk by Oct. 5.

When asked who incurs the cost if shipments have to be flown in, the statement says: "It is our intention to complete all deliveries by barge."

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