Fundamental decision on Alderon project not expected until early 2014
Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley says a new hydro power line to Labrador west will be built only after the provincial government and, more specifically, Nalcor Energy has completed due diligence on the plans.
While the provincial government supports a new transmission line between Church-ill Falls and western Labrador to power industrial customers and to satisfy growing residential and commercial load in the region, we need to do our due diligence to ensure maximum benefit for the people of the province,” the provincial minister said in a statement provided through a spokeswoman Thursday afternoon.
The statement came in response to questions after Dalley’s name was raised by the mayors of Labrador City and Wabush in a news conference in Labrador West earlier in the day.
Labrador City Mayor Karen Oldford and Wabush Mayor Colin Vardy said Nalcor needs to start construction as soon as possible on a proposed new power line for Labrador West.
The mayors said they had sent a letter to Dalley on the matter and followed up the letter with a trip to see Dalley in St. John’s about 10 days later, in order to reinforce their message.
They want the new power line announced within the next couple of weeks, so as not to delay or kill new iron ore mines and mine expansions currently in the planning and regulatory review stages.
“It’s a critical time for our region,” Oldford said, adding that town leaders believe Alderon Iron Ore’s Kami mine project will be at risk without a start on a new hydro line to feed the project power.
“Our understanding is that if this line is delayed, even by another few months, this whole project may be in jeopardy,” she said, adding construction of the line could take more than 25 months.
Alderon’s mine holds the promise of hundreds of full-time jobs for the region, in addition to industrial and business growth.
“What you have to remember is the people who are financing this development will not release any financing until they can prove they have the proper infrastructure in place to have a working mine,” said Vardy.
Similar to the pressure from the towns, Labrador MP Yvonne Jones held a news conference in St. John’s in November, to draw attention to the issue.
Nalcor Energy and its subsidiary, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, have consistently said new infrastructure will come as it is needed. In the case of new mines, the infrastructure will only be built with signed contracts related to the purchase of power and a guarantee the lines will be used.
Dalley acknowledged the mayors’ and MP’s concerns.
“It is important to balance industry’s desired time frame for the new line with the protection of provincial ratepayers,” he said.
The statement went on to note a final decision and report to the environmental assessment of the Kami iron ore mine is yet to come.
Alderon’s work on the assessment is complete. The issue now sits with the provincial government — the Environment minister and cabinet.
“Work on the environmental assessment through the Department of Environment and Conservation is now complete for the Kami Iron Ore Project and we anticipate a decision on whether or not it will be released in early 2014,” Dalley said.
Meanwhile, as part of Lower Churchill project work, Nalcor Energy announced Wednesday a contract to provide new transmission lines between Muskrat Falls and Churchill Falls has been awarded to Valard Construction, out of Alberta.
That work is expected to begin soon and be completed in early 2016. It will include the assembly of towers and installation into tower foundations, in addition to actually running the line.
Those pressuring the government for construction in Labrador West say an announcement for that area would be a welcome followup.