NUNAVUT – Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ outsize cargo specialists came up with an innovative solution to help the Canadian mining company Baffinland Iron Mines increase its iron ore production quota in 2017 at its Mary River operation on the northeast coast of Baffin Island.
In 2016, Baffinland achieved 3.2 million tonnes of production and transported the iron ore from the mine to the port site 100 km away. Much of the equipment already on the island arrived by sealift during the summer but with ice having shut down shipping lanes, no further deliveries would be possible until late July or early August. Recognising the need to increase the size of its truck and trailer fleet, Baffinland turned to Volga-Dnepr for its expertise in moving heavy and outsize cargo as well as the ability of its IL-76TD-90VD freighters to operate to Arctic runways.
Volga-Dnepr found a solution to flying heavy equipment to the Mary River iron mine. Credit: Volga-Dnepr.
In addition to increasing its fleet capacity, Baffinland needed the extra equipment because the extreme winter weather conditions and harsh ground environment were causing its existing equipment to need extra maintenance, thus reducing its availability. However, the trucks were too tall to fit inside the IL-76TD-90VD cargo cabin so Volga-Dnepr’s engineers set about finding a solution, working closely with the Baffinland team. With weather conditions of up to –50°C on site, plus the need for the new equipment to enter service quickly, it was essential to minimize the level of dismantling of the trucks in order to eliminate a lengthy re-assembly process on arrival.
Volga-Dnepr’s solution was to put smaller tyres on the tractor units for transportation, reducing their height sufficiently to fit inside the IL-76TD-90VD. Volga-Dnepr’s team also worked with Ilyushin Design Bureau to address the issue of the short 200-metre runway at Mary River and found a solution to use the least amount of fuel in order to safeguard the limited fuel supplies available on the island. Using the aircraft’s extension ramp equipment and onboard cranes also ensured the programme was self-sufficient in terms of loading and unloading.
With all of the planning completed, including gaining the necessary approvals from Transport Canada, Volga-Dnepr commenced a four-week programme of 20 flights at the start of April. This included positioning extra crew in Canada to ensure the timeliness of the flight operations for the four-hour rotation from North Bay to Mary River and back again.
Baffinland Iron Mines’ chief procurement officer Sandeep Kumar said, “We are quite delighted with the solution and service provided by Volga-Dnepr’s team in response to our need for the mine. They understood the ground situation and worked accordingly. This gives us confidence of using such heavy airlift solutions should the need arise again.”
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