Secret deals

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So, what have we learned about Labrador mining and Alderon Iron Ore’s Kami project after The Telegram interviewed president and CEO Tayfun Eldem?

Well, we’ve learned that the company feels it is poised to be the next major iron ore company in the nation. That it has put forward a proposal to Nalcor for the supply of power. We’ve learned that Nalcor has a complicated three-stage proposal system for assessing requests for power.

And we’ve learned that the energy company is moving ahead quickly with a project that Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy has said depends on Muskrat Falls as a new source of power.

Here’s Eldem: “What (Nalcor is) doing right now is they’re trying to assess: is the power available — in terms of energy — which I think that they’re confident that they can supply the energy. And the second piece is: does the transmission infrastructure need any upgrades?

“They now have a very clear idea of what it’s going to take for them to bring power to our site … They’re moving into Stage 3, which then looks at what aspects they need to look at in terms of technical permitting, engagement and they’re about to start that process. At the end of that, then we’re going to go into a power purchase agreement with Nalcor.”

The company expects environmental concerns to be fully addressed by the fall of 2013. The company wants to be in full production by the end of 2015 — a time when, even if project sanction for Muskrat Falls comes tomorrow, the Muskrat Falls project would still be a considerable time from completion.

Still, all engines ahead, full speed.

Missing, of course, is a crucial little piece of commercially sensitive — and politically sensitive — information. As Alderon finishes up its full feasibility work, it has a pretty good idea about what it will cost to mine the Kami ore and process that ore for shipment. It has a pretty reasonable idea about where it expects iron ore prices to be on the world market — but most of all, it has a pretty good idea about what it expects to be paying for electrical power. That price is crucial to the mine’s success — and no one is saying anything about what it might be.

Alderon will apparently be making its power purchase agreement with Nalcor, which means the deal will be struck under the auspices of the most restrictive access to information rules in place in the province — rules that specifically state Nalcor’s boss will “refuse to disclose to an applicant under that Act commercially sensitive information of a third party.” Nalcor is also not a regulated utility, meaning the Public Utilities Board would not be able to review the power purchase deal.

We’ve heard a lot about Muskrat Falls, and about the way the provincial government thinks it has released more information about the project than ever.

Here’s the point: will the government commit to release, in full, all power purchase agreements signed for Muskrat Falls?

Or, behind closed doors, will ordinary rate payers have one deal, and big businesses — businesses harvesting this province’s publicly owned, non-renewable resources — have something different and special?

Organizations: Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Alderon Iron Ore

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Recent comments

  • William Daniels
    September 21, 2012 - 16:03

    We are being suckered. Stop the spending now.

  • Blue Ink
    September 21, 2012 - 13:32

    Deniel is correct. The power for the initial mine start up will come from Churchill Falls. This article is nothing more than anti-government propaganda. ....and that.... is my two-cents worth.

  • Winston Adams
    September 21, 2012 - 11:58

    John, someone called you Tony the Tory. You call yourself an ordinary Joe who has zero knowledge of engineering and distribution systems. But you talk as if you have in depth understanding of many technical issues, It does appear that someone is feeding you a bunch of talking points to promote this MF project and attack every rational agrument againt it, or any deficiency on the part of Nalcor or the government. You response to this would likey be "show me one rational agrument", and you therefore label every critic at irrational. Some one yesterday said you are great at hiding, when any question is put to you that you wish to avoid. Of course, I have repeatly said how efficient heating can handle the future load here for some decades,while reducing Holyrood use. Nalcor proposes to obtain only 2/10 of 1 percent from efficiency going forward, where many other jurisdictions are obtaining 2 percent or more, which we can do, and entirely takes care of the load as noted in Maurice's comment, and this costs only 1/4 that of MF. Now if you were not biased you would admit that the 2/10 of 1 percent is foolishly low , and does little to meet the 20 percent reduction by energy efficiency promised by the governments efficiency plan . As well Take Charge and Turn Back the Tide ignores the big energy savers for domestic heating - not a bit of info on this- so don't you agree those are two faced policies? And you find nothing wrong with that? And don't give me your line that efficiency won't handle our long term power needs here on the island. Define long term. Does it make sense to spill MF water for 2 or 3 decades waiting for island demand to pick up? Because with a reasonable efficiency policy it will likely take that long before Needing MF power here. Don't hide John. Address this,or will no one feed you a talking point on this.

    • Doug
      September 21, 2012 - 13:05

      Wince, do not give John too much credit his knowledge appears to go only as far as any of Dunderdale's minsters and back bencher mouth piecies which are often used to rebut legitimate questions. (a little knowledge is dangerous and keeps us all ignorant) John make a blanket statement that all industrial rates in Canada are subsidized, which is just not true. However, deals to subsidze power costs do exist as they do for labour and generally I believe these provide little long term benefit to the well ebing of the economy and should be discouraged. As to a mining interest moving shop as the outcome, big woops there John! Magenite of the quantity and quality that is found in Lab West are rare, deposits in Mininesota, Michigan, Brazil and Australia, all of which are competitive have cost elements including power costs that are not strictly comparable and as such may still be less competitive than Lab West even with higher power costs. Also, the planned mine dvelopment will ship esentially a mostly unprocessed ore to China which does beg the question why build a hydo generator which will result in a average cost of 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour (at the hydro station) and sell that power to a mine at 4 cents. Is the value of the investment to that accrues to the Province worth this level of subsidy? John?

  • Cold Future
    September 21, 2012 - 10:54

    The telegram does great service to the people in trying to bring the vailed dealings into the light. Meanwhile we also must consider the thoughtless drivel of the government lackie John into account ( with many grains of salt). Just because we have given away our power on the backs of the domestic ratepayer to entice rapers and plunderers to take our resources in the past is not good reason to continue doing it. Let the Vale deal be the last. We only have to look to the recent bankruptcy of Iceland to see the impacts and hardships of building hydro resources to give free power to entice an industry (a smelter). Sell power at its real cost to provide-never mind the sweetheart deals which leave us inevitably holding the bag. We would be much better off if CB pulp were to shut down and be the catylist for us to drop the giveaway in waiting at Muskrat which will only lead to hardship for our people.

  • Dr. Sarcasm
    September 21, 2012 - 10:17

    I think it is a great idea to "give away" the power or else Alderon will just go to another province that will give them cheap power and mine that provinces enormous, high quality, world class iron ore deposits.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    September 21, 2012 - 08:42

    Government's Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2011 shows that over the last 20 years, total residential energy consumption (biomass, electricity, and oil sources) DECREASED by 17%.,,,,,,,, While the portion attributable to 'electricity' went up (actual and percentage wise), it did so at the expense of oil's market share (which over that same 20-year period was cut by more than half --- reduced from 42% to 18%, or about 1.2% per year). ..... So the total 'residential' energy pie has DECREASED by 17%, oil's share has decreased from 42% to 18%, and at that rate 'electricity' will have captured all of the remaining residential oil-based energy market share within about 5 or so years after Muskrat Falls comes on stream........ SInce therefore 1) there is no forecast industrial growth past 2015, 2) the total residential energy consumption, 20-year trend is downward (about 1% per year), 3) Nalcor's potential for growth by cutting into oil's market share (at about 1.2% per year) will be virtually non-existent shortly after Muskrat Falls comes on stream, and 4) Muskrat Falls needs (its viability depends on) an average 0.8% compound growth rate for a FULL 50 YEARS --- where is that 50-year demand coming from?........ Electricity will have taken over virtually all of oil's market share by around 2020-2025, and there is no foreseeable, evidence-based need for more power from 2025 to 2067..... It does not exist. Where then will the revenue to pay Muskrat Falls debt servicing costs come from? .... Only from increased rates or increased taxes. ......... "Do we need the power"? ----- NO ....."Is Muskrat Falls viable"? ------ NO. .......... Maurice E. Adams

  • John Smith
    September 21, 2012 - 08:23

    More mindless blather on the part of the Telegram...anti PC government...anti muskrat...anti usual. And of course we have the usual suspects chimeing in with their anti government, anti muskrat, anti business rhetoric. All is well at the Tely...LOLThe thing that is missing is that every single province in canada gives a better price on power to large corporations then they do to regular rate payers. We have been giving virtually free power to the mill in CB now for years, let alone cheap rates, they also give them tax breaks, and even cash...but SHHH! don't talk about that eh Tely staff?? That would not suit your agenda. We need jobs and prosperity in this province, we need to develop our natural resources, we need to encourage business to set up in the province. Here we have the Tely trying to create a story where there isn't one...again....

    • concerned
      September 21, 2012 - 13:21

      John... I do not disagree with your arguement. Other than both industry and residents could have lower energy costs if we just bought the power from HQ for 20 years. Following 2041 we could use profits from UC to finance the lower churchill, when hopefully the North American benchmark price is more robust than compared to today. Nalcor are only doing this as they will make a regulated profit. If would never happen in an unregulated industry. You know that, as well as the rest of us. Low Energy Prices in New England, and spiralling labour costs at home is the recipe to ensure failure. You still drink the cool aid.

  • W Bagg
    September 21, 2012 - 08:07

    Alderon will be in full production by the end of 2015, but there won't be a Tory govt then, that's for sure.

  • Daniel
    September 21, 2012 - 08:00

    This article makes a very basic mistake. The power for the first stage of ADV's project will come from Churchill Falls, where there is plenty of extra capacity, NOT Muskrat Falls. Transmission upgrades to the Labrador City area will be required, of course. Muskrat Falls is, of course, a contentious political issue, but it has little to do with ADV, which needs power in 2015, not a decade from now, and Muskrat Falls will likely take at least another decade to build.

  • Brad Cabana
    September 21, 2012 - 07:13

    When Alderon's President says: "..does the transmission infrastructure need any upgrades?" he must not be talking to Alderon's Chairman who has already stated publicly that the gov needs to build a whole new transmission system from the Upper Churchill facility to Lab West.Also, he is on the record as saying they have access to "very cheap power." A dam for the mines indeed.

  • JM
    September 21, 2012 - 06:57

    This is a very good editorial. Alderon have already publically stated what they expect to pay for power. It is in the 4 cents a kWhr range, as this is market rate. Also Minister Kennedy has also already said in his 3-off 20 minutes speeches to the house of assembly in May that we have to provide this power at market rates. So they (Nalcor and Goverment) have been relatively forthcoming in stating that Alderon will pay less that you and I. What they have not been forthcoming with is that they have actually received a proposal from Alderon requesting power. The most interesting aspect of the article yesterday is that Alderon submitted a proposal for a PPA to Nalcor in late 2011. However, there has been repeated statements during the PUB process that no firm request has been received. This is why the PUB economic analysis was totally premised on the island consumer paying for the entire project. You raise a good point as to who has priority on the power. The PPA with NLH for island consumption (which is paying for the project) or the PPA with Alderon, or the committment to Emera. Something does not add up in Nalcor's numbers. The result is likely that Holyrood will still be required to meet the winter peak demand, further increasing our rates. All Nalcor need to do to quite this public discord is to release the monthly and hourly demand and generation profiles. Alderon says that work is in progress. I for one would like to see it. I dont believe in conspiracy theories, but basic math should add up. In this case it does not.