June 25, 2014
Because of ice conditions, the Red Dog shipping season typically only runs 100 days, from early July to mid-October. To prepare for shipping season, we transport our outbound zinc and lead concentrate by truck to the port year-round to be stored in two massive storage facilities.
For our Red Dog Operations, being located 240 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle means dealing with unique challenges when it comes to managing our supply chain for maximum benefit with minimal impact. Transportation routes for products and supplies are subject to ice and snow for nine months each year. With our supply chain involving everything from the inputs we need to extract ore and process it, to the systems needed to stockpile, package and transport our supplies, products and workers, ongoing planning is essential to maintain reliable inbound and outbound transportation systems.
Outside of an 84-kilometre Red Dog-maintained gravel road to our seaport on the shores of the Chuckchi Sea, there are no other roads or railways to or from the site, so transportation of product from the mine depends entirely on the port. Because of ice conditions, the Red Dog shipping season typically only runs 100 days, from early July to mid-October.
To prepare for shipping season, we transport our outbound zinc and lead concentrate by truck to the port year-round to be stored in two massive storage facilities. We monitor weather conditions 24-hours per day and maintain radio call-in protocols for drivers along this isolated route. We also monitor wildlife. The region is home to moose, red foxes, grizzly bears, Arctic wolves and thousands of caribou, among other species.
When migrating caribou are spotted on the road, our drivers stop to ensure their safe passage and estimate the size of the herd, reporting the results to the Northwest Arctic Borough for their management of the species.The start of shipping season itself is dependent on the completion of the annual whale hunt by local Indigenous Peoples, the Iñupiat. Each year, we await confirmation from the Iñupiat Subsistence Committee that their hunt has ended before sending vessels into port. Once the season begins, we monitor the weather and ocean swell conditions to determine whether shipping operations can proceed on any given day. Weather conditions are monitored for as much as 36 hours in advance to assist with a final shipping decision. If shipping is approved, concentrate is loaded onto two custom-built barges and transported out to cargo ships 5 kilometres offshore. The cargo is shipped to our customers around the world.
While concentrate is transported out of Red Dog, supplies for the coming winter are transported in, largely from Seattle, Washington. It is an intensive process, months in the making, to bring in fuel, equipment and non-perishable items to sustain operational needs throughout the year. Managing our inbound supply chain also allows us to be more efficient and use less energy. We carefully plan our shipments, as anything that is missed or unforeseen must be brought in later by aircraft.
Today, Red Dog is a testament that foresight and careful supply chain planning can create a successful and sustainable operation in the harshest of climates.