Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road

Northwest Territories & Nunavut, Canada

Since 1998 Nuna has constructed and maintained the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (TCWR) (formerly known as Echo Bay Mines Ltd.'s Lupin Winter Road). Camps, shops, laydown areas and fuel storage have been strategically positioned along the winter road which enables Nuna to respond quickly to various demands placed on operating an ice road in Canada's remote and harsh North.

TheTCWR has developed from an 800 load per annum road system to a renowned and engineered ice super highway with transport trucks delivering up to 10,000 loads during the months of February and March each season. The TCWR starts 70 km north of Yellowknife and traverses between 400 km and 600 km (depending on mining activities) over 85% frozen lakes and 15% land portages.

In earlier years the route terminated at Echo Bay's Lupin Gold Mine and then was extended to reach Tahera's Jericho Diamond Mine. With both of these mine in care and maintenance status, the TCWR now terminates near Diavik Diamond Mine.

The TCWR is a vital link for bulk supplies, equipment and personnel required for exploration and mine sites located in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut; namely De Beers Canada’s Snap Lake and Gahcho Kué mines; BHP Billiton Diamonds’ EKATI mine; and Diavik Diamonds’ Diavik mine.

Nuna's Role

Nuna is responsible for the TCWR's annual winter construction, maintenance, truck dispatching and traffic control, camp catering and summer camp maintenance. The success of the winter road takes a great deal of planning, experience, specialized equipment, unique manpower and cooperation from Mother Nature; given that 85% of the road comprises ice, sustained cold weather is required.

Nuna commences construction of the TCWR January of each year which entails the use of Nuna’s specialized early road opening equipment such as Hagglund amphibious track vehicles equipped with ground penetrating radar to determine ice thickness and light plow equipment; both supported by helicopter surveillance to report major ice cracks or pressure ridges ahead. Throughout the road season, Nuna uses plows, graders, water trucks, dozers, snow blowers and other specialized low ground pressure equipment to keep the road clear of snow in order to continually build up ice thickness and keep portages smooth. At various locations along the entire length of the road Nuna measures the lake ice thickness and determines allowable vehicle load weights. A typical season will see maximum full load weights of 32 metric tonnes on an ice plate of 40 inches (3 feet) thickness.


De Beers Canada Corporation & De Beers Canada Exploration Ltd. - Pioneered a Nodwell route into Nisha site. Constructed Snap Lake site access winter road. Completed Gahcho Kué route selection and constructed a 125 km ice road and 5,000 ft Hercules aircraft capable ice airstrip.

Historical Winter Road Statistics (2000-2009)

Year Operating Period Total Tonnes Hauled (northbound) Number of Truckloads (northbound) Number of Backhauls (southbound)
2001 Feb 1 – Apr 13 245,586 7981 201
2002 Jan 26 – Apr 16 256,915 7735 433
2003 Feb 1 – Apr 2 198,818 5243 883
2004 Jan 28 – Mar 31 179,144 5091 165
2005 Jan 26 – Apr 5 252,533 7607 243
2006 Feb 5 – * Mar 26 177,674 6841 469
2007 Jan 27 – Apr 9 330,002 10,922 818
2008 Jan 29 – Mar 31 245,585 7484 890
2009 Feb 1 – Mar 22 173,195 4847 530
2010 Feb 4 - March 21 120,020 3508 429
2011 Jan 28 - March 31 239,000 6832 530