Baffinland Iron Mines has constructed a temporary 7,000 foot ice strip at David Lake, approximately eight kilometres to the northwest of the all-weather runway at Baffinland’s Mary River site on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. The ice strip is a necessity to keep things rolling while the permanent air strip is being upgraded and lengthened, supporting the crews undertaking the construction and ongoing activities relating to the future Mary River operation. Use of the temporary ice strip will last from approximately February 2014 until the mid-to-end of April 2014.
The ability to land larger planes at site facilitates Baffinland’s continued service commute times from Kitchener Waterloo airport in the south, which started on September 26, 2013 as an outcome of a partnership between Baffinland, Sarvaq Logistics, an Inuit owned Logistics Company headquartered in Iqaluit, and Nolinor, a Quebec-based charter airline.
Part of the task during the construction of the ice strip involved producing a daily, or regular, ice profile sheet that detailed the thickness of the ice on the landing strip (at three separate line profiles). A Quality Assessment Quality Control (QAQC) system is used for the ice profiling, which is a very specific discipline. The results of the profiling were reviewed by an experienced third party ice engineering company that signed off on the ice strip before commencing operation. In building the strip, the ice first has to be thick enough for light sized graders that can clear off the snow. Snow cover warms the ice so its removal allows the ice to “grow” thicker. In order to land a 737, there has to be greater than 47 inches of ice. At time of writing this article, the ice had reached a thickness of greater than 70 inches and it will continue to grow in thickness until April.
During a trial cargo run of the ice strip which occurred on February 7th – the pilots commented that the ice strip was in better shape than most land based aerodromes.
“Safety is our top priority,” says Erik Madsen, Vice President of Sustainability, Health and Safety and Environment, who worked on the world’s largest industrial ice road serving the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories for years. “This is really nothing new. Landing an aircraft of this size has been done safely before in the north, but you need the experts to do it. All applicable permits were obtained and the lighting is Transport Canada Approved.”