Northwest Transmission Line gets environmental approvals

Vancouver – Mining projects in British Columbia’s northwest are another step closer to tapping into the provincial grid after the federal government gave the environmental go-ahead for the Northwest Transmission Line.

The May 6 announcement came less than three months after the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office gave provincial approval and just before the province celebrates its B.C. Mining Week.

BC Hydro can now go ahead with development of the $404 million project to build a 344 km, 287 kV transmission line from Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake along highway 37.

The Government of Canada is funding $130 million of the project through its Green Infrastructure Fund, $180 million is coming from AltaGas (ALA-T), and BC Hydro estimates it will need to cover the remaining $94 million.

BC Hydro wasted no time in announcing its preferred contractors for the project as it works to stay on schedule and have the transmission line completed by the end of 2013. The provincial utility has launched negotiations with Valard Construction and Burns and McDonnell, the preferred proponents. Golder Associates and Hatch have been chosen for environmental and construction management services, respectively.

The transmission line is poised to be a lifeline to a number of northern mining projects, some of which already have contingencies incorporated while others are based on the assumption that the line would go through.

Copper Fox Metals (CUU-V) was quick to praise federal approval as it works to develop its polymetallic Schaft Creek project, while Imperial Metals‘ (III-T) Red Chris project could be one of the first to benefit.

Galore Creek, controlled equally by NovaGold (NG-T, NG-X) and Teck Resources (TCK. B-T, TCK-N), is also largely dependent on the line. The two companies were originally slated to contribute $158 million towards the line before temporarily suspending development of the mega-project.

Seabridge Gold (SEA-T, SA-X) and Pretium Resources (PVG-T) are also set to benefit, as they continue to develop their adjacent KSM, Snowfield and Brucejack projects.

Indeed, a 2010 study by the BC government identified no less that 25 major exploration projects and proposed mine developments in the corridor.

In mid-April the Tahltan First Nation voted 82% in favour of the project, which will run for roughly 70 km through Tahltan territory. In March the Nisga’a Nation’s legislature approved an impact benefits agreement for the project and is moving ahead with formal approval.

The Gitanyow and Lax Kw’alaams First Nations, meanwhile, have voiced their opposition to how BC Hydro has gone about negotiations and have vowed to block the project until the corporation changes its approach.


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