Inadequate electrical power is the biggest obstacle holding back the proposed Harper Creek copper-gold-silver mine near Vavenby.
The municipalities of Clearwater and Barriere plan to work together at the Union of BC Municipalities convention this week to get electrical power for the mine and for other developments in the North Thompson Valley.
“Power is the key. Without power we can do nothing,” Yellowhead Mining president Ian Smith said during an open house held Sept. 13 at the Community Resource Center in Clearwater.
“We’ve been working with BC Hydro for years on this and they still haven’t selected a route for the upgrade. So far, they’ve narrowed it down to two, and will decide on which of those it will be next spring. If private industry worked on that schedule, they’d be dead.”
The power supply to the North Thompson Valley is barely adequate for present needs and provides no room for growth, said Smith. It is also not as reliable as it should be, as shown by the wildfires of 2003 when the single transmission line was cut.
Many people in the Valley want the project to go ahead, he said. There are quite a few who work in mines in Alberta and elsewhere in B.C. They would welcome the opportunity to work locally, without the long commutes.
Smelters, trading companies and industrial companies are interested in the proposed copper-gold-silver mine at Harper Creek going ahead, Smith said. One of the main attractions to them is that the ore has low levels of contaminants such as arsenic.
“We’re not in that category. Our concentrate would be clean,” he said.
The Yellowhead Mining president said their feasibility study says the mine would provide employment to Valley residents for at least 28 years, but he expected it would last longer than that.
District of Clearwater has supported the project since first approached by Yellowhead Mining, said town councilor Jon Kreke.
“One of the messages we want to take to UBCM is the need for increased sources of power, not just for Yellowhead but for other projects as well,” Kreke said.
The Clearwater council member said they plan to meet with the premier, ministers and BC Hydro, and will present them all with the same message.
“Everyone’s going to benefit,” said Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys.
“In my opinion, this is the premier project for the region. If BC Hydro does what it should, it will be finished on time.
“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,” he said.
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.
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.”