Netflix recently released The Ice Road starring Liam Neeson and Laurence Fishburne. The movie is set in Canada on one of the very real ice roads that lead to the diamond mines in Canada’s Northwest Territories in the Arctic.
The Natural Diamond Council (NDC) felt this was a fun opportunity to “nerd-out” on the ice roads and shared these fun facts with those who might be interested in a deeper dive. The NDC is comprised of member companies from the diamond mining industry (DeBeers, Lucara, etc.) and therefore have access to these insights through them.
The REAL Ice Road:
- The Ice Road is about 400 km long and is primarily built over and around 64 frozen lakes (85% of route). It is officially known as the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road and has been jointly run by three mining companies for just over 20 years, since the start of Canada’s diamond rush in 1999.
- Before the Winter Road officially opens, it must reach a minimum of 29 inches of ice. As the ice thickness increases, the load capacity for freight increases. Once the ice thickness reaches a minimum of 39 inches, the road can then open up to full load capacity.
- Every year, initial road construction begins in December, and the first vehicle to drive along it after completion is a Swedish made Hägglund army-type reconnaissance vehicle. It’s specially designed to float if it falls through the ice and tows an ice-thickness-detecting sonar.
- Where there are problem lake areas with thinner ice, speed limits reduce to 15km per hour for trucks. Furthermore, if the ice on a stretch of road needs to be thickened, water trucks are called in to add water to that specific area.
- It is the only road in Canada where you are not allowed to wear a seat belt.
- Wildlife has the right of way on the winter road – vehicles must stop for caribou, wolves and other animals that often cross the road.
- The Ice Road is considered the safest road in North America – contrary to the movie depiction!
- The diamond industry is one of the largest ones in the NWT, contributing around 25% of the territory’s GDP, with a direct impact of $1,171 billion in 2019 alone.
- The diamond industry has spent more than $23.2 billion in procurement from NWT and Indigenous NWT Businesses since 1996. Of that, they contributed over $7.1 billion to Northern Indigenous enterprises.
- Since 1996, these diamond mines have provided over 62,791 person-years of employment, out of which 24% indigenous NWT (24% NWT residents and 52% Southern Employment).
- By imposing stringent regulations on mining companies, the Canadian government can proudly state that all of its diamonds abide by the highest environmental and international human rights frameworks and labor regulations.
- At a global level, for every acre of land used for mining, the NDC members set aside three for conservation
- Before mining companies can begin building in Canada, they must consult with indigenous communities and local governing bodies and make a commitment to maintaining biodiversity.
Click here to read the NDC’s article about the real story of the Ice Road.
Learn more about the Natural Diamond Council at naturaldiamonds.com.