A Sensitivity analysis of air commuter networks serving uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan
Schmeichel, Dale R
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Air commuting to remote mining projects in the Canadian north is only a decade old despite a lengthy history of the use of air transportation in remote regions. Rotational work schedules and air commuting began with frontier oil exploration efforts in the Beaufort Sea and the Canadian Arctic in the early 1970s. From there its use spread to the mining industry in the Northwest Territories and northern Saskatchewan. From experimental beginnings with the opening of the Rabbit Lake uranium mine in 1975, air commuting has replaced permanent town construction as a method of obtaining a workforce for uranium mining projects in Saskatchewan. Air commuting developed in Saskatchewan in the absence of detailed study to serve first one mining operation and presently to serve all three operating uranium mines. This study develops a methodology for analyzing passenger routing in the air commuter systems. Commuter systems are modelled as finite network graphs. Using network flow programming the study proposes optimal routing patterns for each separate network and proposes a least cost integrated system to simultaneously serve the commuter transportation needs of all three operating mines. The research points out that the methodology developed can be used in planning studies to develop optimal system response to changed conditions such as development of additional mines, establishment of new pickup points or changes to the availability of employees at specific pickup points.