THE CONTINUING effort to push the provincial power grid into northwestern B.C. got a bit clearer this afternoon with the announcement of a 93km power line that will stretch up Hwy37 North.
The 287 kilovolt line will start at Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North where the 340km long Northwest Transmission Line, also 287 kilovolts, that is now under construction is to end.
It’s being called the Iskut extension but actually stops short at Tatogga Lake which is south of Iskut.
This new line will provide power to the Imperial Metals’ Red Chris copper and gold mine under development about 20km to the east of Tatogga Lake. A distribution line will be built to the mine site by Imperial.
A smaller line of about 16km will reach even further north from Tatogga Lake to Iskut which now uses diesel generators.
Under a complex agreement negotiated over a number of years, Imperial Metals will pay for the construction of the line and B.C. Hydro will then buy it off of the mining company.
B.C. Hydro will build the smaller line from Tatogga Lake to Iskut by itself.
Imperial official Byng Giraud said this afternoon that Imperial will sell the 93km line to B.C. Hydro for far less than what it will cost to build.
“We’re building it because we need the line,” said Giraud. “This will serve our purposes as well as the public need.”
He said the 287 kilovolt capacity of the line is greater than that need by Imperial, paving the way for other companies to use power from it for their own purposes.
“This should not be regarded as a subsidy,” he added of the money to be spent by Imperial to build the line.
Imperial and other companies who will use the Northwest Transmission Line and the extension will pay a specific tariff to B.C. Hydro.
Giraud said the extension should be finished in May 2014, the same time period Imperial wants to start operating its Red Chris mine.
Imperial has taken on the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation as a partner in the line’s construction.
Giraud said a company skilled in power line construction has yet to be chosen.
Valard Construction, one of the largest power line contractors of its kind in the country, is B.C. Hydro’s main contractor on the $561 million Northwest Transmission Line and has invested heavily in establishing a base in the region.
The province has exempted the extension from being reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission, saying it did so to speed up the construction timetable.
Construction is still subject to provincial permitting but will not go through the kind of extensive environmental review undertaken for the Northwest Transmission Line.