A new transmission line for Labrador West means a new iron ore mine will follow.
Premier Tom Marshall announced the government’s instructions to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to move forward with the third line Thursday at the Wabush Hotel in Labrador West.
The line will supply power from Churchill Falls to Western Labrador, providing enough power for Alderon’s Kami mine, which allows the project to go ahead.
The third line has had many proponents, including the Wabush and Labrador City town councils and the Labrador West Chamber of Commerce. It will supply 160 megawatts for future developments and industrial growth, as well as improved reliability for customers in Labrador West.
Marshall said the PUB will maintain its role in reviewing the costs incurred by Hydro and will be setting rates for customers in the province.
The transmission line is expected to create 2,300 jobs during construction, which is expected to begin in spring.
Marshall said the final piece of the puzzle fell into place Wednesday night.
“We wanted to make sure the power provided here was provided as part of a home-grown Newfoundland and Labrador system and we’re going to be proud of that,” he said.
The St. John’s Board of Trade welcomed the announcement, as well, with chairwoman Sharon Horan saying the need for more power in Labrador West is indisputable.
“The third line is desperately needed, not only to maintain existing operations industrially, commercially and for residents, but the new power is needed for new mining developments that are on Labrador West’s doorstep.”
The news comes just a two days after Cliffs Natural Resources announced it would be idling Wabush Mines, laying off approximately 400 workers.
Marshall was joined Thursday by Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley and Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Nick McGrath. They were to take part in discussions with Wabush Mines stakeholders about the current challenges, the transition period for displaced workers and opportunities for the future.
“The government of Newfoundland and Labrador will stand by the people of Wabush,” Marshall said. “We will ensure the company meets all its commitments to its employees, town and province.”
The government is also working with Cliffs to find a new buyer for the mine. Ministers will be travelling to Labrador West over the next two weeks to ensure programs and services are being offered. Marshall said a range of labour market adjustment services will be made available through the Department of Advanced Skills and Education to help workers transition to other projects with high demands, such as Alderon’s Kami project, Muskrat Falls and IOC expansions. Services include career counselling, transition support, job search skills, résumé-writing and skills investment training.
Just last year, Employment Connection Services, which provided many of those services, was axed in a string of budget cuts.
McGrath said sometimes it’s easy to look back in hindsight, and sometimes it isn’t.
“In saying that, we have different companies that will be coming in and setting up to work with them,” he said.
“And if it’s necessary to open for the interim an employment centre like that, that will be one of the steps we will look at through Advanced Education and Skills.”
Tayfun Eldem, president and CEO of Alderon Iron Ore Corp., said Marshall’s confirmation Thursday of the $300-million line from Churchill Falls is the certainty the company needs to nail down financing.
“We’re pursuing $1 billion worth of debt,” Eldem said in an interview from Montreal. “And nobody’s going to lend you money unless they know that there will be power when this project is built.”
Eldem said the company will forge ahead as soon as the project is released from federal environmental assessment with construction starting as early as this spring or summer. It was released from the provincial environmental review last month.
The Kami project is expected to create about 800 construction jobs with hundreds more spin-offs, along with about 500 full-time production jobs, Eldem said.
With files from The Canadian Press