De Beers: Inuit Firm successfully completes critical Chidlack Maintenance
09 Jul 2020
The Chidliak project, named after a fjord on nearby Cumberland Sound, is a remote diamond exploration project on Baffin Island, Nunavut Territory in Canada. Communication to the site is limited to satellite and there are no roads: access is by snowmobile or helicopter in winter, and by small fixed wing aircraft or helicopter in summer.
The center of the project is approximately 120 kilometres east of the territory’s capital Iqaluit, 200 kilometres south of the Hamlet of Pangnirtung, and 250 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle.
In 2019, De Beers conducted several environmental baseline measurements and engineering studies. As part of the work, 37 wildlife cameras and five meteorological stations were established.
Annual maintenance on the stations was originally scheduled for July 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Nunavut closed the borders to non-residents. This provided an excellent opportunity for the De Beers Group to involve local support for the project and contract 100% Inuit-owned, Iqaluit-based company Arctic UAV (AUAV) to complete the annual maintenance.
Three virtual training sessions were held with AUAV to prepare their team for the expedition. On May 13 a three-person field crew from AUAV departed Iqaluit on snowmobiles to access the project area. Kirt Ejesiak, AUAV CEO, managed the expedition from Iqaluit and acted as ‘program hawk’, tracking the movements and precise location of the crew through satellite.
The team based themselves at Chidliak’s Discovery Camp for three nights while they conducted inspections and maintenance on the stations. Maintenance and reconnaissance was completed at all the units, except three wildlife cameras, which could not be located. Many of the cameras continued to operate through the winter and recorded images of wildlife in the area. The team then returned safely to Iqaluit, a journey that covered about 500 kilometres roundtrip.
To most, this trip would have been a major expedition. To the Northern crew however, who are comfortable in this environment, it was routine spring travel. Inuit regularly travel vast distances by snowmobile and are experts at reading the weather and navigating the stark terrain using traditional routes and local landmarks.
Thanks to the professionalism of AUAV, De Beers was able to conduct the necessary field work, which was otherwise in jeopardy as a result of the pandemic.
De Beers Group’s Chidliak Project will be delivered through our Diamond FutureSmart strategy in which technology, digitalization and sustainability will work hand-in-hand through a new approach to sustainable mining. The Diamond FutureSmart team continues to carry out desktop studies on mining, energy, transportation and remote technology.