Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 24, 2016 - 8:30 am

Nunavik mine project looks at airships for remote transport

Lockheed-Martin airships could carry 200,000 tonnes of rare earth concentrate to southern Quebec

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Straightline Aviation is the world’s first owner and operator of these new hybrid, heavy-lift aircraft, developed by Lockheed Martin in California. (IMAGE COURTESY OF STRAIGHTLINE AVIATION)
Straightline Aviation is the world’s first owner and operator of these new hybrid, heavy-lift aircraft, developed by Lockheed Martin in California. (IMAGE COURTESY OF STRAIGHTLINE AVIATION)

A Nunavik-based mineral exploration project is eyeing airships to provide transportation to and from its remote mine site.

Montreal’s Quest Rare Minerals Ltd. has proposed a project that would mine more than 350,000 tonnes of rare earth concentrate over a 30-year period from its Strange Lake property in the southeast corner of Nunavik, along the border between Quebec and Labrador.

The project is one of just a few currently-active mining projects in Nunavik and still in a preliminary phase: The company is preparing a feasibility study and an environmental impact statement this year.

Now Quest stands to be among the first in Canada to employ hybrid airships to transport its ore concentrate, supplies and staff.

The mining company initially looked at different sites for an airstrip, or even building a 160-kilometre road to the Atlantic coast.

But Quest recently signed an agreement with Straightline Aviation to operate a fleet of Lockheed Martin’s LMH-1, a heavy-lifting cargo airship.

The airships would serve as a shuttle between Quest’s Strange Lake complex mine site and Schefferville, a community 250 km south with a direct rail link to the port of Sept-Iles, Quebec.

The airships could potentially carry more than 200,000 tonnes of rare earth ore concentrate annually for delivery to Quest’s Bécancour refining facilities in southern Quebec, the company said in a Nov. 16 release.

“Quest and SLA make ideal partners—we are well positioned to fully leverage the cost efficiencies and environmental advantages of the LMH-1, and are truly excited to be among the first companies to implement such an innovative transport solution,” said Pierre Lortie, Executive Chair of Quest’s board of directors.

The company said the airship can land on just about any type of surface including snow, ice, gravel and even water, with the support of little infrastructure.

Helium provides about 80 per cent of the airships’ lift, which allows them to carry 20 metric tons of cargo and up to 19 passengers at a time.

Quest said that Transport Canada has agreed on the newly-developed airship’s certification criteria, though the aircraft has yet to be certified in the country.

Its first commercial deliveries are scheduled for 2019, the same year Quest’s Strange Lake mine hopes to go into production.

The new agreement is worth $850 million USD over a period of 10 years, which also includes fuel costs, the company said.

Once in operation, Strange Lake could employ up to 689 employees, although only 300 of them would work out of the Nunavik mine site; the rest would be employed in the southern Quebec processing plant.

A 2014 economic assessment on Quest Mineral’s Strange Lake B-Zone deposit says the project represents a net present value of $1.42 billion.

 

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share

 THIS WEEK’S ADS

 ADVERTISING