Archive | Mining Railway and Road Issues

Ice Roads Ease Isolation in Canada’s North, but They’re Melting Too Soon – by Dan Levin (New York Times – April 19, 2017)

“These roads are the only way our people can survive,” said Alvin Fiddler,
grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 indigenous
communities in northern Ontario, including 32 that are isolated from Canada’s
highway network and electrical grid and depend on the winter road system to
replenish stocks of fuel, food and building materials. Some of those
communities nearly ran out of diesel fuel because an ice road opened
several weeks late, Mr. Fiddler said.

ON THE TLICHO WINTER ROAD, Northwest Territories — In Canada’s northern latitudes, the frigid winter means freedom. That is when lakes and rivers freeze into pavements of marbled blue ice. For a few months, trucks can haul fuel or lumber or diamonds or a moose carcass to the region’s remote communities and mines that are cut off by water and wilderness, reachable for most of the year only by barge or by air.

But Canada’s ice roads — more than 3,300 miles of them — have been freezing later and melting earlier, drastically reducing the precious window of time that isolated residents rely on to restock a year’s worth of vital supplies, or to simply take a road trip. Continue Reading →

Cyclone Wreckage Lays Bare Met Coal’s Top Exporter Weak Link – by Perry Williams and Ben Sharples (Bloomberg News – April 13, 2017)

(Bloomberg) — Two weeks after a cyclone tore through Australia’s biggest metallurgical coal mining basin, the industry is still reeling. The outages are a flashback to deluges in 2008 and 2010-11, which forced miners in the world’s largest exporter of the steel-making commodity to update operations with stronger flood defenses and better pumps to drain water.

Though producers now have bigger walls, the weakest link in the supply chain this time has been rail lines, particularly the Goonyella network that was swamped by landslides, cutting off deliveries to major ports on the east coast.

“There’s not much you can do to protect the rail,” said Keith De Lacy, former chairman of Macarthur Coal Ltd., which was acquired by Peabody Energy Corp. “They are always subject to washouts. Goonyella is a major line and carries an enormous amount of coal, and once it’s knocked out it can’t just be repaired overnight.” Continue Reading →

[Ontario] Poor rail service continues to plague north – by Éric Boutilier (Sudbury Star – April 17, 2017)

Éric Boutilier is a spokesperson with the Northern & Eastern Ontario Rail Network.

I’ve recently made an observation as a lifelong resident of Northern Ontario: if you don’t own or are unable to operate a vehicle, don’t expect the government to care or assist you with your need to travel to and from your community.

If you’re sick, poor, frail or live in an isolated region, both the provincial and federal governments don’t see the need to provide you with a safe, reliable and comfortable means of transportation in order to access health care, education, tourism opportunities, or to visit family and friends.

Since 2012, the Liberals and Conservatives have axed a number essential transportation routes without public consultation. The Grits cut the Northlander, the region’s only daily train, in favour of an “enhanced bus service.” Continue Reading →

All season roads focus at Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Infrastructure Summit – by Rick Garrick (Wawatay News – March 11, 2017)

All-season roads were raised during the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Infrastructure Summit, held March 7-8 at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay.

“We all know that based on what we are seeing, based on what we have experienced over the last couple of years that we cannot continue to rely on the winter road system,” says Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “It’s getting too unpredictable; it’s becoming too short, the winter road season, and it’s becoming unsafe. So we need to look at alternatives, we need to look at other ways of transporting our goods in the long term and that may mean building an all-season road network right throughout the NAN territory.”

Weagamow has already started work on the construction of an all-season road to their community, which is located about 45 kilometres from the Windigo Road. “Last summer was the first time they were able to drive in and out all year around, but they had to park their vehicles across the lake from the community,” Fiddler says. “But the work to construct an all-season road around the lake is now starting.” Continue Reading →

Nunavut regulators ponder hovercraft proposal from Agnico Eagle (Nunatsiaq News – April 11, 2017)

“Best overall alternative for exploration from an environmental and economic perspective”

If you’ve ever seen a hovercraft in action, it was probably shown whipping through the Everglades in Florida. But Agnico Eagle Mining Ltd. would like to bring two hovercraft to Nunavut’s Kivalliq region this summer for use in a pilot project that is now awaiting an April 17 screening decision from the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

By design, hovercraft can be used on water and land, taking people or industrial loads over small and large rivers, lakes, swamps, snow, soil, packed ice bogs, tundra, and coastal seas throughout the year.

And hovercraft have resolved numerous logistical and transportation problems in Siberia and the Far East, Agnico Eagle said in its project proposal to the NIRB. “It is expected that they will also be applicable in Nunavut and may have future all-season benefits for Nunavummiut,” Agnico Eagle said. Continue Reading →

[Silk Road] President Xi is heading to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago for a chance to personally suss out the ‘America first’ mantra – by (Globe and Mail – April 6, 2017)

As Donald Trump and Xi Jinping prepared to meet for the first time this week, Jean-Guy Carrier was in Jordan, chatting up Middle Eastern financiers. He had come to a conference of the Union of Arab Banks – a place that could hardly be farther from the nexus of power and diplomacy that Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort will become on Thursday and Friday.

And Mr. Carrier, a former Canadian journalist who once covered the North by hitching rides on planes out of Churchill, Man., could hardly be more distant from the crowd of real estate tycoons and Communist Party elite who will gather in southern Florida.

Mr. Carrier is now executive director of the Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce, and he was in Amman to spread the gospel of China’s “One Belt, One Road” project, with its ambition to spread Chinese money and influence far and wide. Invited by Palestinian billionaire Munib Masri, Mr. Carrier described how Chinese banks and government institutions can be partners and financial enablers for all manner of government spending projects, in Jordan but also in places as distant as Iceland, Kyrgyzstan and Mexico. Continue Reading →

NWT, Nunavut promote road corridor from Yellowknife to the Arctic Ocean – by Jane George (Nunatsiaq News – April 6, 2017)

Road-port combination could unlock billions in mineral revenues, backers say

Within 15 years, you may be able to drive from the Northwest Territories capital of Yellowknife right up to Grays Bay on western Nunavut’s Arctic coast.

The road would run 550 kilometres from Yellowknife to the NWT-Nunavut boundary, where it would link up with a 350-km road that would terminate at a deep water port on Coronation Gulf, close to Kugluktuk to the west and Cambridge Bay to the north.

Along the way to the port, there would be spur roads leading off to mines. That’s the vision promoted by two speakers April 5 at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit. The GNWT has already looked at three road options for its part of the road, which it calls the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor, using geological and mineral data to guide the road’s path. Continue Reading →

Look to public-private partnerships to build infrastructure for Ring of Fire – by Joseph Quesnel and Kenneth Green (Thunder Bay chronicle-Journal – March 1, 2017)

Joseph Quesnel is a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute.Kenneth Green is senior director of natural resource studies at the Fraser Institute.

It has been 10 years since the discovery of a massive chromite deposit in Northern Ontario, which could be a game changer for the region’s economy. But despite this potential, the developers are still as far away from bringing a mine into operation today as they were a decade ago.

Known as the Ring of Fire, the area is rich with deposits of chromite — which is used in the production of stainless steel — nickel and copper.

The possible upside of the region’s economic potential is tremendous. At one point, then Conservative treasury board president Tony Clement called the Ring of Fire an economic equivalent of the Alberta oil sands given the projected investment required. That may be an exaggeration of course, but the deposit nevertheless has the potential for thousands of jobs for several decades of mining. Continue Reading →

Northeast B.C. mining restarts stall because CN Rail hasn’t maintained tracks for shipping coal – by Andrew Kurjata (CBC News British Columbia – February 06, 2017)

Tumbler Ridge mayor says community is being ‘held hostage’ by CN

Coal mines are restarting in Tumbler Ridge, but companies can’t ship to market because train lines maintained by CN Rail have fallen into disrepair. Mayor Don McPherson says it appears the railway stopped looking after the track sometime in 2015 after the community’s last coal mine shut down.

“I guess the board of directors for CN Rail decided that they didn’t need to maintain the rail line,” he said. “It came as a surprise to me.” The discovery comes as there is renewed interest in coal from the northeast B.C. community.

Last year, Conuma Coal purchased three of the mines and announced plans to rehire many of the 700 people who lost their jobs two years ago.The Brûlé mine, which ships coal by truck to a nearby rail facility, is already operational. Continue Reading →

Ontario Northland bounces back after dodging a government bullet – by John Michael McGrath ( – January 27, 2017)

There’s nothing like a near-death experience to focus the mind. Just ask the people at Ontario Northland, the provincially owned company that runs trains and buses across the province’s northeast.

It’s been nearly five years since then-finance minister Dwight Duncan introduced an austerity budget that would have privatized Ontario Northland’s operations, sending shock waves through the north and reinforcing attitudes among local residents that the Liberals simply didn’t understand the needs of the region.

Formally called the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), the agency has a long history. Founded in 1902, its rail expansion into northern Ontario was crucial to the settling of towns like Cochrane, and, after World War I, it built what is still the only year-round connection to Ontario’s James Bay shore. Continue Reading →

Growing impatient, Nahanni Butte starts building own road to mine – by Mark Rendell (CBC News North – January 30, 2017)

After waiting nearly three years for the approval of an all-season road into the heart of Nahanni National Park, the Nahanni Butte Dene Band began cutting its own path last week. The proposed road to the Prairie Creek zinc mine has been limping through the Mackenzie Valley Review Board’s environmental assessment process since mid-2014.

“We’ve been waiting well over two years for this so-called permitting process to give the green-light for the road,” said Mark Pocklington, the communities senior administrative officer. “And, in this process, the review board and others have put demands on further and further studies.”

Growing impatient, Nahanni Butte Chief Peter Marcellais gave the go-ahead to community members to start cutting a trail across Indian Affairs Branch land — set aside by the federal government for the band’s residential use — near the community. Continue Reading →

Warm weather causes limited winter road use on James Bay coast – by Sarah Moore (Timmins Daily Press – January 27, 2017)

While January’s mild temperatures may have been welcomed by some, it has been a curse for the First Nation communities that rely on cold, ice and snow to create their winter road system.

As of Monday, none of the roads in the six corridors in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory were open officially to full-load commercial traffic and only a handful of those roads were open to light vehicle traffic. Even then, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the conditions of some these roads were far from ideal.

“I know that in speaking with Grand Chief Jonathon Solomon (of the Mushkegowuk Council), that the east corridor along the Coast is open to light traffic, but it’s travel at your own risk kind of a deal,” he explained. “But there is no heavy traffic going up North anywhere.” Continue Reading →

Since ice roads won’t stay frozen, we need to get serious about building permanent roads in the far north – by John Michael McGrath ( – January 24, 2017)

OPINION: More than 30 Ontario First Nations communities rely on winter ice roads to truck in everything from fuel to building supplies. Warm winters are jeopardizing that lifeline, and we need an alternative

The one thing that’s supposed to be reliable about Ontario’s far north is cold winters. But increasingly, warm spells in winter have delayed the opening of the ice roads that connect 31 remote First Nations communities spread across the bulk of the province’s north, from the shore of James Bay to the far northwest.

This year, while grading and packing of snow and ice clearing has started in some locations, not a single one of the province’s ice roads has opened to commercial traffic, and only half a dozen have opened for personal vehicle use.

In the province’s northeast, the Wetum Road connecting the Moose Cree First Nation and other communities farther north to the provincial highway system won’t open until next Monday at the earliest. Continue Reading →

Coal, ore plunge hits St. Lawrence Seaway volumes – by Eric Atkins (Globe and Mail – January 17, 2017)

The amount of cargo sailing on the St. Lawrence Seaway has sunk to the lowest levels in seven years amid a plunge in demand for coal and iron ore, two of waterway’s main commodities.

Total freight volumes for 2016 fell by 3 per cent to 35 million tonnes, led by 10-per-cent drops in coal and 14-per-cent declines in iron ore, according to the year-end figures released by the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. on Monday morning.

The slowdown comes even as grain shipments continued their climb, and the 3,700-kilometre route enjoyed its longest shipping season since 2008, due to a mild spring that allowed ships to begin sailing on March 21. Continue Reading →

Federal funding for new Tlicho all-season road a boost for Fortune’s Nico project – by Henry Lazenby ( – January 13, 2017)

VANCOUVER ( – Federal funding for up to 25% of the construction costs for a new 97 km all-season road connecting Highway 3 to the community of Whati, in the Northwest Territories, augers well for project developer Fortune Minerals’ endeavours to secure financing for its nearby Nico cobalt/gold/bismuth/copper project.

“With cobalt and gold prices firming, and greater certainty of an all-season road, Fortune is well-positioned to secure the financing needed to begin construction of the Nico mine,” Fortune VP of finance and CFO David Massola commented Thursday.

The Tlicho all-season road (TASR) will be funded in part through the federal administered P3 Canada Fund. Procurement of the TASR – through a government of the Northwest Territories public–private partnership – will start with the release of the ‘request for qualifications’ in February, and will be followed by a ‘request for proposal’ and bids from private industry to provide combined finance and construction. Continue Reading →