Study endorses power line proposal
Findings show project could stimulate mining investment, job creation and economic activity in northwestern region of province
Last updated 5/25/2008 at Noon
Building a power line into northern British Columbia could attract C$3.5 billion in mining investment to the area, according to preliminary findings of an independent study.
The Northwest Power Line Coalition, an industry group that took up the idea when B.C. government officials dropped plans for the power line last fall, released the findings in April.
They showed that not only would an electricity conduit along Highway 37 in northwest British Columbia help bring at least eight new mining projects to the region, it also could help create 2,000 new jobs in a part of the Canadian province plagued by higher than average unemployment.
Mining is big business in British Columbia with exploration hitting an all-time high of C$416 million in 2007, more than double the previous record in 2006. Some 472 projects attracted exploration spending in 2007, of which 144 projects in Northwest British Columbia drew total investment of C$107.2 million.
Galore Creek setback stalled project
Among major projects that could benefit from the proposed power line are the Red Chris copper-gold project (Imperial Metals); Schaft Creek copper-gold-silver-molybdenum property (Copper Fox Metals Inc.); Eaglehead copper project (Carmax Explorations Ltd.); and Turnagain Nickel Project (Hard Creek Nickel Corp).
The study, conducted by Macquarie North America, also estimated that a power line would create more than C$300 million in economic activity in the area and direct at least C$75 million to governments annually in taxes.
In October, B.C. officials announced a C$400 million deal with Novagold Resources Corp. and Teck Cominco Ltd., joint venture partners on the Galore Creek Project, to build the first part of the power line, a 335-kilometer, or 208-mile, extension from Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake.
But NovaGold and Teck Cominco shelved plans for developing Galore Creek because the project's costs more than doubled, and the B.C. government cancelled the power line project.
The coalition, a group of mining companies, mining associations, First Nations groups and other interested parties, sponsored the study in hopes of convincing B.C. officials to resume preparation for the line's development rather than waiting for another mine project to spur the process.
"Even without the Galore Creek project, the benefits of a power line along Highway 37 are significant," said Pierre Lebel, spokesman for the Northwest Power Line Coalition. "There is a potential to realize $3.5 billion in capital investment in northwest B.C., but this is unlikely to happen without the power line."
Northwest B.C. trails rest of province
The study findings also highlight economic challenges facing the northwest region of the province. The unemployment rate for the region is higher than the B.C. average. Also, the population in the Northwest declined by 7 percent between 2001 and 2006, while it increased by 5 percent across the province.
"We have concerns around the cumulative social, cultural and environmental impacts from the collective proposed industrial activity which may be created by the proposed Northwest Transmission Line, but we have a process for assessment by the Tahltan Nation with BC Hydro for addressing these concerns," said Curtis Rattray chairman of the Tahltan Central Council. "The Tahltan Central Council looks forward to the province of British Columbia signing the agreement so that the Tahltan Nation can begin the process for assessment-including social, cultural and heritage studies described in the agreement-so we can make informed decisions about the proposed activities."