Expanding Alaska-Canada rail: Jointly visualizing revenue freight, development cost, mineral commodity value, and CO2 impacts

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation

Publication Date



Recent changes in global markets have raised the value of mineral resources in northwestern Canada and Alaska. The development of these resources depends on the economics of rail infrastructure expansion. Transportation decision makers need revenue and cost assessments to plan investment in rail infrastructure. A tool based on a geographic information system was developed for mineral resource evaluation and visualization. The tool incorporated expert-augmented mineral resource data for more than 22,000 occurrences in the region. The tool included the proposed Alaska-Canada Rail Link, which would connect Alaska rail to the lower 48 states. Users selected locations of known mineral occurrences near actual or proposed rail routes and used statistical mineral deposit models to estimate resource sizes and extractable value over time by combining current or user-entered commodity prices with multimodal revenue freight volumes and optimally routed transportation costs. The tool translated the revenue scenario into likely carbon dioxide emissions according to the transport of mineral concentrates to regional and international destinations. Users could select and visualize multimodal transportation networks to understand and minimize mobilesource carbon emissions as part of their scenarios. Statistical estimates of mine capital expenditure and operating costs were also calculated according to type. The tool calculated the gross metal value of a mineral occurrence with statistical deposit models. This index was linked to the positive regional economic impact associated with the developed resource in terms of jobs, taxes and royalties, and resupply. This information helped decision makers close the loop on infrastructure investment assessments.

Publisher's Statement

© 2011 Transportation Research Board.

Publication Title

Transportation Research Board 90th Annual Meeting