Battling Arctic temperatures, 24-hour darkness and shipping delays, the Ruskin team constructed an iron ore loading dock with great precision

By Lisa Kopochinski

Ruskin Construction is currently completing work on an iron ore dock at Canada’s northernmost producing mine – the Mary River site on the northern end of Baffin Island – for Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation.

This is quite a feat since this remote location is 500 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in Nunavut, and has an average winter temperature of -30 degrees Celsius with several months of 24-hour darkness.

Awarded this $37-million contract in April 2014, Ruskin Construction, a privately held company with offices in British Columbia, Alberta and Alaska, offers specialized bridge, foundation, marine, aerial pipeline and heavy civil construction services to clients in the transportation, energy, mining and forestry sectors.

As the design-build contractor for this mega project, Ruskin’s scope of responsibilities included the assembly and construction of Open Cell™ marine structures for the ore dock, mooring facilities, shiploader and material handling conveyor system foundations, and the installation at Milne Inlet capable of supporting ship-loading equipment sized to load ocean-going ore carriers ranging in size from Supramax to Post Panamax vessels.

Both the remote location – in the Qikiqtani Region of Nunavut – and shipping logistics played a major role in this project. With a short shipping season from August to October, and with Ruskin only signing on four months prior, project manager Dan Homeniuk knew they had their work cut out for them.

“Planning for a project in such a cold and remote location limited the access tremendously,” he said. “We needed to work very closely with all parties to ensure our equipment, materials and supplies would arrive to port on time. We also had to bring duplicates of all our equipment, parts and tools to mitigate any breakdowns.”

From a pile driving perspective, Ruskin’s role on the project was essentially three-fold:

  • Install 118 pipe piles with diameters from 24 inches to 36 inches
  • Design, supply and install foundations for the 800-metre-long reclaim conveyor, feed conveyor, drive house, electrical house, moorings and ship loaders
  • Design and install the 140-metre Open Cell™ dock consisting of 14 cells with 923 sheet piles that were 85 feet long

Additionally, for onshore piles, the team hit permafrost within the first couple meters, but mitigated this by drilling and steaming the holes prior to pile installation, creating an ad freeze pile.
“The procedure for the 24-inch pipes is as follows,” said Homeniuk. “We would drill and case down to the permafrost with a 22-inch auger bit, and then bring in the eight-inch drill with an Air-Lift Reverse Circulation System on it and drill this down. Next, steam probes were installed and the holes were steamed for 12 hours. We then removed the casing probe and started driving. The procedure for the 36-inch holes was similar except we would carry on past the casing with the 22-inch auger down to the design depth. This process took time to plan and prepare, but made the installation very seamless.”


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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.