Premier Christy Clark has pledged her support to getting additional electrical power for Yellowhead Mining’s proposed Harper Creek project.
In her address to the Union of BC Municipalities convention, the premier said, “We believe in companies like Yellowhead Mining in the North Thompson, and that’s why we’re working with Hydro to connect them to the power that they need.”
Lack of adequate and secure electricity has been the major holdup in moving the project forward, according to Yellowhead president Ian Smith.
Smith recently complained that, after 1 1/2 years of discussion, BC Hydro still has not chosen the route a new transmission line into the North Thompson Valley would follow, much less begin construction.
“It’s very good news, especially for Clearwater, Barriere and the other communities such as Chu Chua,” commented Smith.
“I’ve always said our biggest asset is the support we’ve got from the North Thompson communities. Now that we have support from the premier and her government, that’s the icing on the cake.”
Getting a firm date on when electrical power will be available is a key element in their financial planning. Otherwise, the project would be a non-starter, Smith said.
“With this commitment, we hope to connect before the end of 2015, with start-up shortly thereafter,” the Yellowhead president said.
“Now that we have a target that we can work to, we can get into a position to break ground and create jobs … and that’s what it’s really all about, so there’s no need to drive 12 or 13 hours to Alberta to work.”
District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys matched the Yellowhead Mining president’s cautious optimism.
Speaking prior to the speech, the Barriere mayor said, “everyone’s going to benefit”.
“It would be nice if Hydro would provide stable, adequate, long-term power to the Valley. That would allow all sorts of projects to go ahead, not just Harper Creek.”
The Barriere mayor said there are one or more subdivisions ready to go ahead in his area, but they would have difficulty proceeding without increased electrical capacity.
Previously Humphreys contrasted BC Hydro’s slow speed on deciding on the route for a new power line into the Valley with what he felt was the quick pace of the Interior to Lower Mainland transmission project. “Vancouver wants it for air conditioning,” said the Barriere mayor. “We need it for our livelihoods.”
Without the premier’s commitment to fast-track the transmission line, the proposed copper-gold-silver mine would not begin construction before 2017, said Clearwater Mayor John Harwood.
Clark’s announcement could move that date up to 2015, and construction could begin within a year or two.
The mine would create hundreds of jobs during both its construction and operational phases, with hundreds of millions of dollars being spent.
“If all the pieces come together, it would be very important to the Valley,” said Harwood.
Having more electrical power and having it more secure would help attract other businesses in addition to Yellowhead.
Harwood gave Commerce Resources proposed lead-zinc mine at Ruddock Creek as an example.
Harwood said he understands recent results have been promising and that, while the exploration camp will close this winter, this could be the last year that happens.
Brining the power in from another direction would allow the transmission line in the Valley to be looped, lessening the chances of it being cut off entirely (as happened during the wildfires of 2003).
The proposed Harper Creek mine would be about 10 km southwest of Vavenby. The Ruddock Creek lead-zinc property is located about 30 km due east of Avola near Tum Tum Lake.