The shipment of ore and supplies through sub-Arctic and Arctic waters is a vital activity for Northern mines. Marine transportation is steadily intensifying with the development of exceptional resources and year-round windows of operation for ice-capable ships. All stakeholders are exposed to some level of risk during these operations. Chartered ore carriers assume the uncertainty of navigation through poorly charted waterways with highly variable sea ice and weather conditions, all of which can result in the loss of property and personnel or damage to the environment. Miners assume significant financial and reputational risk in these situations. Underwriters risk considerable payouts for lost cargo and salvage operations. Northern communities and other commercial operators depend on the viability of a unique and sensitive marine-terrestrial ecosystem as well as reliably navigable waterways and ice-ways. Frequently, operational support and emergency response is constrained by scheduling conflicts and the vast Northern geography. Successful operators leverage their access to prized ore with accelerated delivery to international customers and reliable and economical camp re-supply. Communities may benefit from economic activity, infrastructure development and concentrated efforts in icebreaking, traffic routing, and search and rescue operations. In an environment where data is scarce and models uncertain, local knowledge and mariner experience form the backbone of a thoughtful risk management process. Combined with historical records of hazardous conditions, a picture of shipping risk for Northern mines and stakeholders can be established.
This paper first presents a brief summary of mine-related shipping in Northern waters and potential future developments in this industry. Next, marine shipping hazards are introduced with emphasis on vessel safety and environmental protection. Briefly, Northern waters’ regulations and insurance considerations are described as risk control and risk financing instruments. Potential community impacts, both positive and negative, are highlighted along with considerations in a changing climate. Finally, risk communication is discussed in the context of the National Research Council’s Canadian Arctic Shipping Risk Assessment System (CASRAS).