A railroad to move Yukon's mineral resources to the continental market, planned for a year or more by Department of Northern Development, moved closer to reality today with the announcement of an aerial survey to be made this summer of possible routes. A package proposal, complete with economic background studies, is to be ready for the cabinet as soon as possible.
The announcement, released by Commissioner Smith just before noon today, was made jointly by Paul Hellyer, Minister of Transport, and Jean Chretien, Minister of Northern Development. The study will be made by the Government of Canada in association with Canadian National Railways. No cost was announced.
Major resources development such as Anvil Mines lead-zinc property near Ross River and the Cassiar Asbestos project at Clinton Creek "clearly indicate considerable potential for the region," the announcement says and "A fundamental objective of the aerial reconnaissance program this summer will be the determination of the optimum rail route to run through British Columbia to the Yukon." Cost of the aerial survey will be shared equally by CNR and the Department of Transport.
Department of Northern Development will play a prominent role in the interdepartmental task force overseeing the economic studies, in view of its responsibility for the Yukon Territory.
Included as part of the economic evaluation will be the creation of a detailed inventory of mineral and timber resources, an appraisal of the possibilities for local refining and processing in the region and an analysis of resources markets and inter-related transportation cost consideration.
The statement came through Digby Hunt's Economic Resources Group, from Tom Wise, of the economic staff in the Department of Northern Development. Mr. Wise was formerly with the Atlantic Development Board and has been liaison officer for the Carr Economic Study of the Yukon during the past year.
Commissioner Smith was jubilant as he released the news today, which he said was aimed at getting Yukon's resources to market through a multiplicity of routes rather than just one Pacific port.
Ore trucks will be eliminated from Yukon highways if the railroad is built, he intimated, asking "How much can our road system stand?" Traffic count on the Mayo road this summer has totalled as high as 600 vehicles per day.
"We are going to be able to tap the forestry resources in northern B.C, and southeastern Yukon, where at present no means of transporting lumber to market exist," he said. "The railroad will provide a main line connecting with continental railroads to export our raw materials to the rest of the continent...an economic route for other producers in the Ross River area to sell to smelters in the States."
He envisioned the proposed line running from a B.C. connecting point as far north as Dawson City, from where it would connect with the Alaska Railroad system.
The survey will consider alternate starting points such the PGE from Fort St. John, the NAR from Prince George and the CNR from Prince Rupert. Such centres as Hazelton, Dawson Creek or Fort St. John might be the Yukon's terminal.
Commissioner Smith felt the proposed route would not adversely affect the White Pass and Yukon railway from Whitehorse to Skagway, which is already tooling up to handle increased ore shipments from Yukon mines. Stressing that he was only guessing, Mr. Smith said he felt it was "highly unlikely" that the proposed line would by-pass Whitehorse and thought it might be "not too greatly different than the route of the Alaska Highway." He thought it was reasonable to assume that any proposal would integrate the
present railroad system operated by White Pass.
The commissioner hinted that other equally important plans were in the works at Ottawa and Yukoners might expect further exciting developments in the next few months. He gave credit to the former Minister, Arthur Laing, for instigation of the studies and added "Logic has finally penetrated the beaurocratic doors!"