ARS braves Canadian Arctic hauling diesel to mines
Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Darren Wight
As he made his way along the notoriously dangerous Ingraham Trail that connects Yellowknife to the now-famous diamond mine “Ice Road” in Canada's Northwest Territories, Allen Scraba, owner of ARS Trucking & Welding, explained that he has been delivering diesel fuel via the frigid passageway for 20 years.
“I've been coming up here for quite some time now, and I really enjoy it. In fact, today (February 12, 2008) is a beautiful day. It's pretty warm…-37 degrees (-35°F),” he joked. “Every day is a new experience and you need to be ready for anything in this environment.”
Built and maintained by a joint venture of diamond mining companies operating in this remote location for more than 20 years, the Contwoyto ice road is the main supply artery, though it is only open two months out of the year. The road crosses many lakes wherever possible to save costs and, of the 350-kilometer length to the Diavik mine, 75% is on ice, according to Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.
Materials such as diesel fuel, construction equipment, explosives, and cement are needed to operate a diamond mine. Scraba and the rest of the ARS trucking team do their part by transporting millions of gallons of diesel fuel to the Diavik diamond mine (a 36-hour round trip) each year. Nearly half of the trucks on the ice road haul fuel, according to Scraba.
ARS Trucking & Welding, Ltd (which is based in Edmonton, Alberta), along with ECL Group of Companies Ltd, Calgary, Alberta, had a 2008 contract with Diavik to supply approximately 60 million liters (15.8 million gallons) of diesel fuel during this two-month window. However, the ice road that holds these rolling tankers fluctuates in thickness, so the winter road service company — Nuna Logistics Ltd — issues weight restrictions on a periodic basis.
“Today, the ice is 38 inches thick so we can haul up to 124,560 pounds on a B-Train and 126,000 on a Super B-Train (eight total axles),” Scraba said. “We're having a very good year so far. We've made several trips and will hit our target early if this weather and temperature keep up. It takes roughly 36 hours round trip to deliver to Diavik. We had a rough year in 2006 and Diavik had to fly in many loads of fuel, which is very costly. In fact, it takes more fuel to fly round trip than they actually receive.”
Scraba went on to explain that if, in fact, the weather does not cooperate with them and enough fuel does not reach the Diavik tank farm, the diamond mine company can still transport the needed diesel fuel to the site — by airplane.
“If they are desperate enough, they will fly fuel in via ‘Herc’ (C-130 Hercules aircraft),” he said. “The only problem is that it takes about 30,000 liters of fuel to fly the Herc roundtrip, and they only receive 22,000 liters of fuel for the mine. Not very economical but sometimes it's the only option. The mine has to pay for the fuel to operate the plane, the fuel they are receiving, and the operators' time. It makes truck deliveries look very cost-effective, but it all depends on Mother Nature.”
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