The world’s longest ice road connects Yellowknife to three diamond mines: Ekati, Diavik, and Snap Lake. Of the 475 kilometers (300 miles) of ice road, 86 percent of it is across frozen lakes.
The ice road is the only overland supply route for the mines. Each winter, a year’s worth of fuel, construction material, heavy mining equipment, and explosives are trucked to the mines. The road provides the most cost-effective method for transporting these supplies.
Open only 8–10 weeks of the year, the ice road is open from mid-January to March. It has to be rebuilt each year. Work on the road starts soon after Christmas. When the ice is 1 meter (42 inches) thick, it can support a truck fully loaded with over 40 metric tons (44 tons) of fuel.
Full trucks traveling north have a strict speed limit of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) per hour. Empty trucks heading south can use the express lane and go up to 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) per hour. The number of trucks the road handles per year varies. Just over 6,000 truckloads were driven north during the 2013 season.
This place is so far north it’s too dark for satellite imaging in the middle of winter. Early summer, late summer, and late winter images are shown for comparison. There is still some ice on the lake in the July images. In the April images, the straight dark lines across the ice are the temporary roads.