Ironbark Zinc Limited (ASX:IBG) has commissioned a report by Canadian ice shipping specialist Fednav Ice Services to inspect shipping conditions at its 100%-owned Citronen Zinc-Lead Project in Greenland.
This comes as the trend towards significantly improved shipping conditions seen across the Arctic region is mirrored at Citronen.
Managing director Michael Jardine said: “As is well known, Citronen’s high Arctic location will necessitate a bespoke shipping solution and Ironbark is pleased to again be working with ice shipping specialists Fednav in updating its shipping plan.
“The trend towards more open waters during the Arctic summer is now widely cited and its impact on de-risking the shipping operation at Citronen is potentially significant.
“Whether it’s a potentially longer shipping season, younger ice on the shipping route, a larger charter fleet to choose from or the associated capex and opex savings, Ironbark is focused on maximising the benefits presented by this long-term opportunity.”
Annual shipping window
Ice is present all year along the route to Citronen, but shipping becomes feasible during summer.
Four specific events impact the exact timing of the annual shipping window:
- Ice fracture in the Frederick Hyde and Citronen Fjords – the annual separation of the sea ice from the land, often occurs in July at Citronen;
- Seasonal melt in the adjacent Wandel and Greenland Seas – the annual partial melt of the sea ice offshore, made up of seasonal (first year) and perennial (multi-year) ice;
- Openings in the sea ice pack – often impacted by local weather conditions, allows for the traverse of the shipping route with little to no interaction with areas of high ice concentration; and
- Autumnal freeze up and ice cover expansion – the formation of new ice, again subject to local weather conditions in the early stages.
Example of fast ice fracture at Citronen.
Shipping schedule conditions
An analysis of 30 years of ice data (sea ice concentration, extent and age) shows three key factors that will dictate the shipping schedule:
- An increase in open water conditions along the route to Citronen Fjord;
- A relatively high degree of annual variability in the ice concentration along the route; and
- A substantial decrease in the amount of ice that is over 2 years of age, with a higher concentration of seasonal and 2nd year ice in recent years.
As younger ice is substantially easier to navigate than multi-year ice, which becomes thicker, harder and less brittle as it ages, this is potentially of significant benefit in terms of extending the shipping window.
Given its high Arctic location and potential for local adverse weather events, despite these positive developments, Citronen will still require a specialised shipping solution to ensure year-round access to the site by sea.
Whilst it remains too early to commit to a preferred shipping model at present, and subjective to the approval of the relevant maritime authorities in Greenland and Denmark, it is likely that the project will be served by one of two methods – either icebreaking bulk carriers or ice-strengthened bulk carriers in close couple towing with an ice breaker - to export concentrates and conduct resupply.
Both of these options remain under consideration at present, with a final determination unlikely to occur pre-FID.