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Ice truckers set to roll

Mines, truckers preparing for winter season

Norm Poole
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 22/03) - Several hundred truckers are getting ready to roll as the Lupin winter road moves closer to opening.

The target date for light-load traffic is now the end of the first week of February.

The road services the Ekati (BHP) and Diavik diamond mines, and Echo Bay's Lupin mine. A branch road runs to De Beer's Snap Lake property.

Operators of the road held a pre-opening information meeting Sunday at Prelude Lake with Ingraham Trail residents.

Trucks hauling to the mines operate along the Ingraham Trail to its terminus, 70-kilometres north of Yellowknife, where the winter road begins.

The meeting included representatives from BHP Billiton, the GNWT department of transportation, Nuna Logistics, and hauler RTL Robinson Enterprises.

Residents were told to expect about 6,000 truck-trips this season, down from a record 7,900 last year.

One difference will be more loaded return trips as construction equipment is moved south from the Diavik mine.

Residents had few complaints about the way the road is operated.

Most of those concerned speeding or reckless driving by non-commercial users.

Ian Goodwin, acting mine manager at Ekati, noted later that meetings with residents haven't always been so neighbourly.

"People had more concerns and complaints a few years ago, mostly because they didn't know what was happening or what to expect.

"That's fair enough. It is up to us to provide that information and that's one reason we hold these meetings each year."

Goodwin told residents that the RCMP has promised added patrols along the route this year.

The road operators' policing authority covers only trucks hauling for the mines, he said.

The route is patrolled by SecureCheck and truckers are closely monitored for rule infractions.

Last season only 12 infraction citations were issued to truckers, most for speeding or bunching up.

That was down significantly from 124 infractions in 2001, Goodwin said.

Convoys are limited to a maximum four trucks and drivers must maintain a one-kilometre distance between rigs. Convoys run at least 20 minutes apart.

RTL general manager Donnie Robinson asked residents to report any observed infractions immediately to the company dispatch office in Yellowknife.

"And if possible get their rig numbers," urged Goodwin.

RTL will haul 75 to 80 per cent of the total tonnage moved on the road (both ways) this season, said Robinson.

"We are estimating about 4,500 loads North and 800 South."

The firm will employ 300 trucks and drivers through the season.

Residents were told to expect five road closures this year due to oversize loads. Closure advisories will be posted 24 hours in advance and each will last about two hours.

The Lupin winter road is built and maintained by Nuna Logistics, with the $9 million cost shared by users.

Nuna Logistics' John Zgarlic said road construction to date has posed few problems, other than the necessity of detouring around ice pressure ridges at the northern end.