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Baffinland Mary River Aerodrome

Baffinland—Mary River Aerodrome

Vital infrastructure for one of Canada’s most remote mines

Baffinland Iron Ore Mines Corporation | Canada | 2011-2012

One of the most remote mining operations in the world

6,500 feet final length of extended gravel runway

Prefabricated field electrical center designed for turnkey airfield lighting solution

Challenges

The Mary River Project is one of the most remote greenfield mining operations in the world, located within the Arctic Circle on North Baffin Island in Canada.

Infrastructure support was needed for each leg of the iron ore’s journey—from the mine, across the tundra to the coast, and out to sea to achieve a gradually increasing target production rate.

Ice-rich soils and deep permafrost at the Mary River airport site required the implementation of critical geotechnical considerations for excavation and new granular pavement structure.

Solutions

As part of the early revenue phase (ERP), the existing gravel runway at Mary River was upgraded to improve reliability and accommodate larger aircraft and increased movements.

The upgrade included extending the gravel runway to 6,500 feet, thickening the granular runway pavement structure, adding a new taxiway and adjoining apron and new visual aids.

Airfield lighting was upgraded, including runway approach lights and associated terminal, maintenance, and operations facilities and buildings.

Navigational-specialist services were coordinated for the design and flight-checking of amended non-precision-instrument flight procedures.

Highlights

  • Ice-rich soils and deep permafrost at the Mary River airport site required critical geotechnical considerations for excavation and new pavement structure. Thermal modeling was completed to understand permafrost active layer characteristics.
  • Phased pavement-structure construction started with gravel pavements and shoulders, with allowance made for the future removal of surfacing material and its replacement with hot-mix asphalt pavement. The hot-mix asphalt design incorporated polymer-modified PG asphalt cement to address numerous cold weather and remote site challenges for some of the northern-most batching and paving of its kind.
  • Preliminary design of two other airstrips was completed for two potential port sites, include Milne Inlet and Steensby Inlet. Over 1.5-million cubic metres of quarried rock were needed for a level graded site for the Steensby runway and to provide material for the new pavement structure and foundations.     
  • New GNSS-based-instrument approach and take-off procedures will provide aircraft operators with year-round access to the site, and minimize navaid infrastructure requirements on the ground.
  • Aircraft parking and servicing infrastructure accommodates two simultaneously parked, power in/out C130 or B737 aircraft, or the occasional power-in/tug-out Code D aircraft up to a B767-300.
  • Visual aids and navaids include ODALS approach lighting on steep and remote terrain, Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPI’s), new AWOS equipment, apron floodlighting, and TP312 compliant runway/taxiway/apron/helipad lighting. All are powered by new prefabricated field electrical centers complete with back-up generator power and capacity for future expansion.

Project numbers

CAD$50 million construction cost (including all three airstrips)

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