Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road

Last updated

Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road

Snap Lake Diamond Mine.jpg
The entrance of De Beers' Snap Lake Diamond Mine, NT
Route information
Maintained by Nuna Logistics and RTL-Robinson
Length600 km (370 mi)
Can be as short as 400 km (250 mi)
Major junctions
West end Ingraham Trail, Northwest Territories
East end Jericho Diamond Mine, Nunavut
Country Canada
Highway system

        Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road is an annual ice road first built in 1982 to service mines and exploration activities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in Northern Canada. Between 400 and 600 km (250 and 370 mi) long, the road is said to be the world's longest heavy haul ice road and operates for eight to ten weeks starting in the last week of January. [1] [2] [3] Most of the road (85%–87%) is built over frozen lakes, 495 km (308 mi), with the remaining 73 km (45 mi) built on over 64 land portages between lakes. [2] [4] [5]


        Construction and operation

        Lupin Mine Headframe in 1997 in the Northwest Territories (now Nunavut) Lupin 1997.jpg
        Lupin Mine Headframe in 1997 in the Northwest Territories (now Nunavut)

        The winter road is constructed by Nuna Logistics and RTL-Robinson every January and takes about six weeks to complete. [2] [3] [5] The first vehicle along each season is a Swedish-made Hägglund army-type reconnaissance vehicle designed to float if it falls through the ice; it tows an ice-thickness-detecting sonar. [2] This is followed by road building equipment including "specialized low ground pressure equipment". [2] The road, built extra wide to avoid blockages during blizzards and to allow opposing trucks to pass, is kept clear of snow, which acts as insulation, throughout the season as removal allows the ice to freeze faster and thicker. [2] The road is 50 m (160 ft) wide on the ice, but narrower on land portages ranging between 12 and 15 m (39 and 49 ft) wide. Once initially built, the road is checked by drilling holes into the ice. If the ice needs to be thickened, water trucks are called in to add water to that specific area. The road is only operational during February and March, an average of 67 days per year. The ice has been proven by engineers to support light vehicle loads at 70 cm (28 in) and increasing to full highway truck loads as the ice thickens. [5] A thickness of 107 cm (42 in) is required for a super B tanker carrying up to 50,000 L (11,000 imp gal; 13,000 US gal) and may weigh up to 42 t (41 long tons; 46 short tons). [6]

        On some lakes, traffic may be re-routed to new lanes to avoid damaged or rough sections of ice, and additional "express lanes" allow returning, empty trucks to travel at higher speeds.

        The highest allowable speed for fully loaded trucks on the ice is 25 km/h (16 mph) with some areas reduced to only 10 km/h (6.2 mph). Empty trucks have a maximum speed limit of 60 km/h (37 mph) on the ice. Speed limits are strictly enforced by security personnel with radar used to clock speeds just as national and provincial police forces do. [5] [7]

        The dispatch point for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road Dispatch point Yellowknife.jpg
        The dispatch point for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road

        There are three road camps servicing drivers hauling loads along the road, they are at: Dome Lake Maintenance Camp, Lockhart Lake and Lac de Gras. [5] Dome Lake is for maintenance crew and emergency use for drivers, Lockhart Lake provides drivers with food, shower, and a place to do laundry. Lac de Gras is for road crews, emergency use and for driver facilities for drivers travelling north of Ekati.

        Truck drivers are not allowed to travel the winter road alone, therefore, up to four trucks are dispatched from Yellowknife every 20 minutes. [8] Heavy and wide loads are dispatched from Yellowknife between 12:00 am and 6:00 am to avoid daily commuter traffic. [4]

        The main product shipped is diesel fuel and other materiel includes "cement, tires, prill (ammonium nitrate) for explosives manufacture, and construction materials." [3]


        The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Ice Road follows part of the original road that was cleared to the Tundra Mine in 1960–1961 by John Denison. This road began at Discovery Mine which was already connected to Yellowknife by ice road up the Yellowknife River and swung east to Gordon Lake, heading north up Drybones, Lockhart and Mackay Lakes where the Tundra Mine was located. This route was used until 1968 when the mine closed. [9]

        Statistics [5] [10]
        YearRoad OpenedRoad ClosedFreight Carried
        Super B
        Capacity Reached
        [ citation needed ]
        Number of
        Truck Loads
        2000January 29April 3111,090n/a3,703
        2001February 1April 13245,586~March 37,981
        2002January 26April 16256,915February 227,735
        2003February 1April 2198,818February 215,243
        2004January 28March 31179,144February 235,091
        2005January 26April 5252,533February 207,607
        2006February 4March 26177,674not reached6,841
        2007January 27April 9330,002February 2610,922
        2008January 29April 7245,585February 157,484
        2009February 1March 25173,195February 155,377
        2010February 4March 24120,020TBA3,508
        2011January 28March 31239,000February 176,832
        2012February 1March 28210,188March 16,551
        2013January 30March 31223,206February 146,017
        2014January 30April 1243,928TBA7,069
        2015January 30March 31305,215TBA8,915
        2016February 9Open 47 Days262,261TBA8,766
        2017February 1March 29279,484TBA8,241
        2018February 1Open 58 Days303,725TBA8,209
        2019February 1March 31257,176TBA7,489
        2020January 31April 8230,497TBA7,072
        2021February 8April 6TBATBA5,700 - 6,100 (Expected)
        2022January 31March 31 (planned)TBATBA7,800 (planned)
        2023January 31 (planned), February 6 (actual)March 31 (planned), (Actual after April 4, probably April 6)TBATBA6,400 (planned)

        The road was reopened in 1979 as part of an equipment haul to the new Lupin Mine at Contwoyto Lake, now Nunavut but then the NWT, pioneered by Robinson's Trucking and Hugh Arden. It followed the old Discovery Mine to Gordon Lake route. An experimental operation, Lupin decided not to continue using the road at this time and relied instead on Hercules C-130 aircraft to haul in machinery during construction of the mine.

        In 1983, the ice road to Lupin Mine reopened as an economic alternative to yearly freight haul using aircraft. [5] The section between Tibbitt Lake (at the end of the Ingraham Trail) and Gordon Lake was built at this time. Another gold mine, the Salmita Mine (operated between 1983 and 1987) also benefited from this ice road.

        Until 1998, the road was licensed and operated by Echo Bay Mines, owners of the Lupin Mine, after which it became a joint venture between Echo Bay Mines, BHP Billiton, and Diavik Diamond Mines. [4]

        The defunct Jericho Diamond Mine, Nunavut, Canada. The mine site (buildings and fuel tank farm) is visible in the background behind the open pit. Jericho Diamond Mine pit Nunavut Canada.jpg
        The defunct Jericho Diamond Mine, Nunavut, Canada. The mine site (buildings and fuel tank farm) is visible in the background behind the open pit.

        Since 1999, the road has been licensed and operated by the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road Joint Venture, today a partnership between BHP Billiton, Diavik Diamond Mines (Rio Tinto) and De Beers Canada. The road is engineered by Nor-Ex Ice Engineering, and, since 1998, Nuna Logistics, a 51% Inuit owned joint venture between the Nunasi Corporation, Kitikmeot Corporation and Nuna Management Group, [11] has been responsible for the annual construction, maintenance, dispatching, and camp catering for the primary road, with RTL Enterprises taking care of the secondary road. [2] [5] Security on the road, provided by SecureCheck until 2009, is now provided by Det’on Cho Scarlet Security. [12] Det’on Cho is a Yellowknives Dene company with headquarters in N'Dilo and Scarlet Security, based in Yellowknife, is an Alarand affiliate. [13] [14]

        The year 2007 saw record usage of the ice road with 10,922 loads north, totalling 330,002 t (324,790 long tons; 363,765 short tons). [5] That record number doesn't include the 818 back hauls south, [5] totalling 15,000 t (15,000 long tons; 17,000 short tons). The road was open for 73 days from January 27 to April 9, only closed for a total of 91.5 hours (70 hours due to storms and 21.5 hours due to minor incidents). There were over 700 drivers registered during 2007 with nine accidents and one minor injury (a bruised shoulder). [1] During the record 2007 season, there were 99 verbal, 5 written warnings and 5 speeding violations. [7] Nine five-day suspensions and seven season suspensions were issued. [1]

        In 2007 the road was featured on The History Channel series called Ice Road Truckers . The mining company that owned the road where the first season was filmed felt that the show portrayed the road in a negative fashion, and decided not to participate in future seasons of the show. A new rule for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Roads was enacted for the 2008 season prohibiting commercial, media, video or rolling film cameras either inside or attached to the outside of vehicle. The show's producers said that they had located an alternate ice road and that there would be a second season of the show; [15] [16] the road featured in season 2 was the Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road.


        Primary route

        Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap

        The ice road begins about 65 km (40 mi) east of Yellowknife at the end of Highway 4, more commonly known as the Ingraham Trail. [17]

        From there, it winds its way north the following destinations:

        Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (main route)
        0 km0 mi Tibbitt Lake NT Start of road map 1
        7 km4.3 miMeadows Station NT Security checkpoint
        35 km22 miDome Lake NT Maintenance camp map 2
        170 km110 miLockhart Lake NT Rest stop map 3
        264 km164 mi Snap Lake Diamond Mine NT Owned by De Beers Canada and located southeast of the road map 4
        Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine NT Owned by a joint-venture between Mountain Province Diamonds
        and De Beers Canada, located southeast of the road map 5
        350 km220 mi Lac de Gras NT Rest stop (for Lupin/Jericho traffic only) map 6
        373 km232 mi Diavik Diamond Mine NT Owned by a joint venture between the Dominion Diamond Mines
        and Diavik Diamond Mines, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Group map 7
        378 km235 miMisery NT Satellite mining camp of the Ekati Diamond Mine map 8
        405 km252 mi Ekati Diamond Mine NT Owned by Dominion Diamond Mines, northwest of the road map 9
        Pellatt Lake NT/NU Crossing the NT/NU border map 10
        568 km353 mi Lupin Gold Mine NU Closed 2006, owned by Echo Bay Mines Limited map 11
        600 km370 mi Jericho Diamond Mine NU Closed 2008, owned by Tahera Diamond Corporation map 12

        The road ends in Jericho Diamond Mine, at the north end of Contwoyto Lake, Nunavut. With the closing of the Lupin and Jericho mines, the road is no longer built to Contwoyto Lake. According to the 2020 JVTC Map book the road is shorted to 367km at the Ekati Mine on Lac De Gras.

        Secondary route

        The secondary route begins about 20 km (12 mi) east of Yellowknife at Prosperous Lake. map 13 The road heads north across the lake just to the west of Cassidy Point map 14 and through Quyta Lake where some of the earliest gold samples were found in 1933. map 15 [18] From there the road continues north to Johnston Lake map 16 and then northeast to Giauque Lake, map 17 with a road heading west to the old Discovery Mine, now the Yellowknife Gold Project map 18 operated by Tyhee Development. [19] [20] From Giauque the road travels east across Thistlethwaite Lake map 19 and northeast through Smokey Lake map 20 before joining the main route just north of Gordon Lake. map 19 [21]



        The ice road was the location of the first season of Ice Road Truckers .

        This road inspired the Netflix movie The Ice Road .

        See also

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        1. 1 2 3 Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road Joint Venture. "The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road" . Retrieved April 26, 2020.
        2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road". NUNA Logistics. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
        3. 1 2 3 "Supplying Canada's Northern Diamond Mines". JVTC Winter Road. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011.
        4. 1 2 3 Nuna Logistics Ltd. "The Winter Road". Archived from the original on 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2007-08-15.
        5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Facts". JVTC Winter Road. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
        6. "Construction: Backed by Experience, Monitored with Science". JVTC Winter Road. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
        7. 1 2 "Security". JVTC Winter Road. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
        8. "Safety". JVTC Winter Road. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
        9. 1959 John Denison's Ice Roads Archived 2012-02-17 at the Wayback Machine NWT Historical Timeline, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
        10. 2010 Winter Road Updates Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine
        11. Nuna Logistics
        12. New partnership for Deton'Cho Corp Archived 2012-03-25 at the Wayback Machine
        13. Deton'Cho - Contact Archived 2010-11-16 at the Wayback Machine
        14. Scarlet Security Archived 2012-09-13 at archive.today
        15. Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road 2008 orientation materials "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2013-09-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
        16. "Producers find new ice road for TV series". Landline Magazine. Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. 2008-02-05. Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
        17. Maps
        18. "Northwest Territories Timeline - "Yellowknife Johnny" Baker". Prince of Whales Northern Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
        19. "www.newswire.ca/" . Retrieved 2019-10-01.
        20. Canadian Diamond Mine Winter Road
        21. Secondary route Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine