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Trucks come and go over the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road. Although warmer weather is providing for some slush and water on the ice, road conditions are still safe for truckers, but tourist traffic is being discouraged.

Mines not worried about slush

Stephan Burnett
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 02/05) - There's slush and water at certain sections on the side of the winter road to the diamond mines north of Yellowknife.

Still, there's no danger of falling through the ice, said Chris Hanks, chief environmental officer with BHP Billiton's Ekati mine.

"There's a lot of snow and overflow of ice off to the sides. You can drive up the road and see water along the side banks caused by a lot of snow," Hanks said of the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Lake winter ice road.

The road is cleared of snow, but the snow banks are heavy. The road is flooded and it thickens, but there's thinning next to the road itself, said Hanks.

The heaviness of the banks causes wet cracks, "which is why we tell people to stay away. The road itself is fine," said Hanks.

"It's not a place where I would park one of my own trucks.

"You're not in danger of going through, but you're going to get wet and slushy," said Hanks.

Despite the water and the slush, the weight restrictions on the ice road are running close to highway conditions.

Currently, for B-trains, which are seven-axle smaller tandem trucks, the maximum load is 124,560 pounds.

For Super Bs, which are eight-axle trucks and trailers, the maximum load is 139,992 pounds, said Hanks.

"We're running somewhere between 120 and 160 loads per day depending on what they have available to go up," said Hanks.

Overall, BHP has moved 1,300 loads since the ice road opened on Jan. 26. As of Feb. 27, De Beers had moved 169 loads toward its Snap Lake Project. Tahera Diamond Corporation is expecting to send 500 loads up the winter roads this season. Diavik has 1,100 of an expected 2,700 loads hauled to its site.

There is potentially another 5,500 to 6,000 loads expected to run up the winter road this season with the heavier loads being carried at night.