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Winter road expecting ‘very busy year’ as it opens late

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road will open to commercial traffic at 8am on Tuesday, more than a week later than is usually the case.

A mild winter has hindered ice growth while a snow storm in late January also hampered efforts to get the road finished.

NWT diamond mines served by the winter road must now cram as much traffic as possible into what is likely to be a shortened season, with the road traditionally closing at the end of March.

“There will be heavy truck traffic north and southbound on the Ingraham Trail until the end of March,”  said Ron Near, the winter road’s director of operations, in a news release late on Monday.

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“Motorists are asked to use caution when travelling the Ingraham Trail. The Department of Transportation has placed signs on the Ingraham Trail advising motorists not to stop or park on the road during this period.

“We are expecting a very busy year with over 8,000 loads and 300,000 metric tonnes of freight.”

The latest closure date for the road so far this century was April 16, back in 2002. This year’s opening date of February 9 is the latest since the turn of the millennium, with only 2006 (when the road opened on February 5) coming close.

The ice road, stretching 400 km from Yellowknife to the Ekati mine, was first built in 1982 and formed the setting for the first season of TV show Ice Road Truckers.

Alongside Ekati, the road serves the Snap Lake diamond mine – where De Beers is in the process of suspending operations – as well as the Diavik and Gahcho Kue mines.

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