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With road set to close, NWT diamond mine truckers win awards

Winter road operators and drivers pose with a ceremonimal cheque
From left: Ron Near, retiring director of winter road operations; drivers Joe Holt, Mike Blake, Duane Whitney, Fred Abbott and Peter Paul; and Mike Lowing, incoming director of winter road operations. Bill Braden/TCWR

What’s the perfect gift for someone who spends months driving to and from diamond mines? How about: diamonds.

The road to and from the NWT’s mines – the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road – celebrated its latest season with awards for some of its drivers, and builders, at a gala last Friday.

Like a range of other NWT winter roads and community events, the ice road to the mines has faced temporary closures in the past week associated with damage related to unseasonably warm weather.

The road’s operators say it will close for the season on March 31, in line with its usual closing dates, after the completion of 8,000 trips.



At Friday’s ceremony, which also marked the 20th anniversary of the joint venture which manages the road, top truckers received cash awards for their leadership and approach to safety.

Sixteen drivers received a $1,500 driver safety prize; five were awarded $5,000 each for exceptional performance.

In addition, three individuals and their companies received half-carat diamonds – one from each mine – for their “enterprise, commitment, and demonstrated innovation and improvements that made the project better,” according to road operations manager Mike Lowing in a news release.

Lowing will become the overall director of the winter road next season. Ron Near, the current director, retires in June after eight years in post.