CANADA: Volvo articulated haulers carrying supplies and equipment over a glacier to a remote underground gold mine in the Canadian province of British Columbia close to the Alaskan border are fitted with tire chains for the perilous crossing

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A fleet of Volvo Machines, including four articulated haulers, two wheel loaders, and three excavators, are owned by contracting company Tsetsaut Ventures, named after the Tsestaut Raven Clan which has occupied the sacred headwater region since time immemorial.

 

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Volvo CE dealership Great West Equipment of Terrace, BC, working with Tsetsaut Ventures, modified several articulated haulers, including this A40G, by removing the dump bed and fitting it with a deck. The haulers load up at night and drive in convoy over the glacier to the mine in the morning. They reload with refuse from the mine and then make the return trip.

 

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This Volvo EC220D excavator is used all year round and in all conditions to preserve the glacier highway and keep the road open. Ice is more challenging to work with than dirt. As the day warms up, the glacier erodes, and creeks in the middle of the road turn into small rivers, diverted to drainage ditches. These need daily maintenance and the operator must fill and seal cracks while being careful not to remove too much ice.

 

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Tsetsaut Ventures was started by Tsetsaut descendant Chief Darlene Simpson of the Tsetsaut Nation and her husband George Simpson. Through Tsetsaut Ventures, the First Nations supply the gold mine with machines, manage work camps and provide peripheral personnel. The company has become the largest employer in the region, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the province, of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

 

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Shawn Matheson, sales representative for Great West Equipment (left) with Tsetsaut Ventures excavator operator Richard Pattison responsible for glacier maintenance, who says his remote job working with glacier ice is a “once-in-a-lifetime” project. Tsetsaut Ventures specializes in maintenance and freighting on the glacier highway, pioneering reliable access over the glacier.

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William Joe is one of a team of ten articulated hauler operators at Tsetsuat Ventures working shifts to make sure the mine is supplied seven days a week. The distance across the ice from load to unload is 10km and a one-way run takes an hour. Operators make an average of three or four trips per working day.

 

William Joe is one of a team of ten articulated hauler operators at Tsetsuat Ventures working shifts to make sure the mine is supplied seven days a week. The distance across the ice from load to unload is 10km and a one-way run takes an hour. Operators make an average of three or four trips per working day.

Operators are modern-day pioneers and must be constantly observant and on the lookout for potential danger. The weather is volatile with more than 30m of snow per year and the glacier moves constantly, changing from day to day. Operators learn never to trust a pothole.