ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT step to provide power north of here is scheduled to take a step forward with the selection of a contractor.
The project involves a 287kV line running 93km north of Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North to Tatogga Lake where a smaller line will then run east to connect to the Red Chris copper and gold mine now being built by Imperial Metals.
Imperial has formed a subsidiary for the project which is to be finished next spring.
It’s a crucial time period for that’s when the Red Chris mine is to be completed and when BC Hydro’s 344km Northwest Transmission Line, which starts at the Skeena Substation just south of Terrace and which stops at Bob Quinn, is also to be completed and ready to supply power to Red Chris.
“Contractor selection for line construction is expected by the end of July,” says Red Chris vice president Steve Robertson.
“Local residents, especially Tahltan, will make up a significant component of the workforce, particularly in areas such as right of way clearing, earthworks and environmental supervision. The total workforce number will fluctuate with a peak of about 130,” he said.
As vital as the new project is to the Red Chris mine, it is also part of the overall strategy of providing power to the north using the Northwest Transmission Line as a foundation.
At 287kV, the new project, called the Iskut extension, is larger than what’s needed by the Red Chris mine.
Under a deal signed with BC Hydro this spring, the line will be sold to the crown corporation for a flat fee of $52 million with the Imperial subsidiary on the hook for any amount above that.
It means BC Hydro will be ready to supply power through the extension to other customers, primarily mining companies, should their projects prove viable.
BC Hydro officials say the deal is a good one for its fits both the needs of Imperial Metals and of itself and comes with a fixed price.
It expects to recover the $52 million it will pay for the extension by charging customers based on the amount of capacity of the line they wish to use.
But those customers will also pay for other costs associated with the project, adds BC Hydro.
“That comprises the fixed price cost to purchase [the extension] as well as the costs to upgrade the Bob Quinn Substation and build the new Tatogga Substation, and also the costs of the distribution line from Tatogga Lake Substation to Iskut, for a total project cost of approximately $127 million,” said BC Hydro in background material.
The extension is also important to BC Hydro for another reason – it moves power closer to the small community of Iskut which is now dependent upon diesel generators for electricity.
That’s because BC Hydro is getting a $130 million federal green infrastructure grant to help defray the costs of the increasingly expensive Northwest Transmission Line on the condition it take Iskut off of diesel power within a year of the transmission line being finished.
To date, BC Hydro estimates running a small distribution line north of Tatogga Lake, where the Iskut extension is to stop, to Iskut, a distance of about 16km, will cost $5 million.