On March 31st, the Library held ?The ICE ROAD?, another ?Itchy Feet? session. The presenter was local resident Jim Way, who works for Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mine. Hank Boere introduced the speaker and offered words of thanks and appreciation regarding some items donated to the library over the past few years by Diavik.
Way introduced the presentation by stating that this session was not to be confused with the reality show ?Ice Truckers? that was created for television. Jim Way has built and maintained winter roads before joining Diavik. This two-hour presentation gave information on how the ice road is built and maintained, and crucial information for driving safely on it. The road is a joint venture of BHP and Diavik Mines known as JV Group (joint venture) and is 568 km long. 85% of the road is over ice. Nuna Logistics and RTL Trucking out of Yellowknife are the contractors and maintain the road. The ice road opens in February and when the ice is 30 inches thick the convoys begin. All the mines in this region depend on the ice road for supplies. There are rest areas and places for emergency stops at intervals along the ice road.
The information was detailed and kept those in attendance interested. There are strict regulations regarding the ice road as set out by the JV Group. For example, if the driver comes across a herd of Caribou on the road, truckers must wait until the wildlife moves on. All wildlife has priority and drivers are not allowed to prompt them.
Any spills from trucks, no matter how small, have to be cleaned up completely. Even at 30 inches thick, the ice bends under the weight of the trucks. Trucks carry partial loads when the ice road first opens up to traffic. Ongoing checks of the ice are done using a radar type device towed behind a vehicle, a method called ice profiling and sometimes the tried and true method of an ice auger is used. Way?s presentation included ice performance factors such as vehicle weight, critical/excessive speeds, and their impact in creating dangerous situations. The rules of the road are strictly upheld for the safety of all. Last year, there were 10,000 vehicles crossing the ice road without any ?through the ice? incidents. In the event this does happen, vehicles have to be retrieved from the lake with the help of ice divers as the environment takes precedence. In the case of emergency helicopters can be used for medical evacuations but only during daylight hours.
The presentation closed with a DVD presentation on the building of the Diavik Diamond Mine.
Finding the diamonds, building the mine, and shipping in all materials and fuel over the ice road were covered in the presentation. The building of the dikes to drain the lake giving access to the ore containing the diamonds was most interesting as it was an environmental challenge and a first time accomplishment for the north.
Hard to imagine that a tugboat and dredging equipment were even brought in on the ice road. A look at the wildlife in the area, the climate, environment, and the people of the NWT were all part of the lengthy planning sessions that went into building the mine.
Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mine is a state of the art facility for diamond mining. The company has created one of the best ?away from home? camp facilities for its employees.
Then one has to also take into account that this road is used by all the other mines to build and replenish supplies in that region. Without this ICE ROAD none of these projects would exist today.
The presentation was well received and one hopes that Jim Way can make another presentation of this fascinating subject.