North

Ice road the key to early construction at Gahcho Kué

De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds have received permits to start work at the Northwest Territories’ newest diamond mine this winter, and ice roads will be the only way to bring in heavy material.
Workers flood the ice on the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road in the Northwest Territories. DeBeers and Mountain Province Diamonds plan to haul about 600 truckloads of material over the road this year to prepare for construction of their proposed Gahcho Kué diamond mine. (Courtesy Tibbit to Contwoyto Winter Road Joint Venture)

This winter, about 600 tanker truck loads of material will be hitting the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road to reach the site of the proposed Gahcho Kué diamond mine.

'You have to start somewhere,' says Tom Ormsby of De Beers. (De Beers)
De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds have received permits to carry out advance work at  Gahcho Kué​ before major building begins next summer.

“You have to start somewhere,” says Tom Ormsby, director of external and corporate affairs at De Beers. “We need to put in some fuel tanks and things like that.”

A special “pioneer” permit allows the company to have up to 180 people on site to prepare for future work.

This winter, De Beers plans to build more permanent housing for up to 140 people and bring in large earth moving machines, dump trucks and drills. They also plan to build a new, 1,400 meter airstrip to allow for year round access.

But for now, the winter road — the one made famous in the television show, Ice Road Truckers — is the only way to get materials in.

Gahcho Kué​ is located about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, and about 80 kilometres southeast of the Snap Lake mine. (De Beers)
Ormsby says work this winter will be “the beginning of starting to rough in” where the roads may eventually be built.

The Northwest Territories department of transportation says 600 trucks is a relatively small contribution to the roughly 18,500 trucks that are on the road each year. However, the trucks could bring in about $170,000 in revenues.

Several N.W.T. companies have been awarded contracts to do the work.

It’s all expected to start once the winter roads open in early February.

Gahcho Kué​ is located about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife on Kennady Lake.

Once built, the mine will employ close to 700 people during the two years of construction and about 400 people during its operational phase. That’s expected to last about 11 years, when the company will mine about 31 million tonnes of ore containing an estimated 49 million carats of diamonds.

The companies still need to secure the final construction and operational permits before full construction can begin.

Public hearings on the company’s applications are scheduled for early May. Permits could be issues sometime in fall 2014.

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