Mining companies with projects in northwestern B.C. are expecting a boost as construction is set to begin this spring on a key power project that will help end dependence on diesel generators.
Dave Pernarowski, mayor of Terrace, B.C., said the $404-million Northwest Transmission Line will help transform the region, which was already in a slump when it was hit by the downturn in the forestry sector during the recession.
“We’re looking forward to some actual industrial development and some opportunity for jobs,” said Pernarowski, who also served as co-chairman of the Northwest Powerline Coalition.
“There’s really good positive buzz, not only in Terrace, but really across the entire region.”
The coalition supporting the project included dozens of communities in and around the region as well as scores of mining companies and firms that supply them backing the project.
According to a 2008 report from the Mining Association of British Columbia, the new power line could help generate $15 billion in investment and create over 10,000 jobs over the next few decades.
“It’s really becoming apparent quickly to a lot of people not only in northern B.C., but finally in the rest of the province, this is where the action is going to be in the next few years for sure,” Pernarowski said.
There are a number of mining projects in the region that stand to benefit from the new power line when it is built.
Imperial Metals (TSX:III) is developing an open pit mine at its Red Chris copper-gold project that will connect to the line, while Capstone Mining Corp. (TSX:CS) is advancing its Kutcho copper-zinc-gold-silver deposit.
Copper Fox Metals (TSXV:CUU) is also developing its Schaft Creek copper-gold-molybdenum project which would also make use of the new line.
Elmer Stewart, chairman, president and chief executive of Copper Fox, called the power line a key to economic prosperity for the region for decades.
“That power line going up into that part of B.C. will provide the power that is necessary,” he said.
Stewart said his company’s drilling suggests the possibility of a large mining district in the region.
“Up there a lot of people have focused only on known deposits, which were probably found in the 1960s,” he said.
“I do feel with exploration there are more deposits that will be found.”
The power line project will be a 287-kilovolt, 335-kilometre, publicly owned transmission line from the Skeena Substation near Terrace north to Bob Quinn Lake.
Ottawa has committed $130 million, while AltaGas will add $180 million to the project to connect its Forest Kerr run-of-river hydroelectric project that is in development. B.C. Hydro’s cost is expected to be about $94 million.
The line, which received its federal environmental approval earlier this month, is expected to be fully commissioned and in service by the end of 2013.