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Volumes Down On Main NWT Ice Road

YELLOWKNIFE, NWT - Freight trucked over the Tibbitt to Contwoyto ice road in the NWT is down by about 45,000 tonnes compared to last year, says Erik Madsen, director of Joint Venture Management Commit...


YELLOWKNIFE, NWT –Freight trucked over the Tibbitt to Contwoyto ice road in the NWT is down by about 45,000 tonnes compared to last year, says Erik Madsen, director of Joint Venture Management Committee, operators of the ice road.

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road begins about 60 kilometres east of Yellowknife, and connects to three diamond mines. Most of the road is built over frozen lakes with connections via land portage. It is about 400 km long this year, compared to its normal length of almost 600 km, after Tahera’s Jericho Diamond Mine shut down last year.

The ice road opened on Feb. 1, and is expected to close about March 31, according to Madsen, whose group manages the road for BHP Billiton Diamonds and Diavik Diamond Mines.

“Everything is on schedule and it’s going really well,” said Madsen. “The cold weather this year really helped to build the ice up, and the loads/the tonnages are there. We anticipated being done on schedule or even earlier.”

Diesel fuel is the largest item being trucked north on the road, along with cement, tires, prill (ammonium nitrate) for explosives and various construction materials. However, Madsen admitted that the 45,000 tonne decline in projected volumes (to 200,000 tonnes) is being felt by some truckers.

Making matters worse, De Beers Canada announced recently that its Snap Lake mine has experienced a production slowdown, with 128 employees being laid off.

“It’s surprising that (the economic slowdown) is affecting the diamond mines as much as it is, because men still buy diamonds for their women,” says Blair Weatherby, president of the NWT Motor Transport Association.

The Yellowknife fleet operator has managed to cope with the economic downturn by diversifying and subcontracting for the ice road industry. His company, Weatherby Trucking, normally specializes in transporting construction equipment and supplies or acting in a vehicle recovery capacity for breakdowns or other vehicle mishaps in the Yellowknife area.

This year, Weatherby has a total of three trucks hauling on the winter road, to supply the local diamond mines. One is a winch truck, which is currently hauling shacks on the ice road with a trombone trailer, and the other two are hauling various construction supplies along the same winter transport route.

“Mostly cement – bags of cement,” said Weatherby. “They use it for backfilling (the mine) underground.”


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