Red Chris Mine in northwest B.C. began operation this summer after protests and multiple reviews of its tailings facility. It processes one of the world's largest copper-gold deposits

Hydro break proposed for struggling mines

Deferred electricity payments would be repaid with interest, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett says

The B.C. government is considering a payment deferral program for mines’ electrical bills, to help keep mines running during an extended slump in metal and coal prices.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett is taking a proposal to cabinet that would allow mines to defer a portion of the BC Hydro bills, with repayment to begin when prices of copper and other mineral commodities reach a certain stage.

Imperial Metals announced this week that Huckleberry Mine. a copper mine south of Smithers, is suspending pit operations and laying off 120 of 260 employees. Bennett told Black Press the continued slump in world commodity prices means more job losses are on the way.

Electricity deferrals were used by the NDP government in the 1990s and Social Credit in the 1980s. Bennett said unlike the NDP program that varied rates with commodity prices, he is proposing that mining companies repay deferred funds with commercial interest, with no net burden to taxpayers or BC Hydro ratepayers.

“If we can’t figure out something to help reduce operating costs, there’s going to be not just layoffs, there’s going to be mines shutting down,” Bennett said. “I don’t expect bankruptcies and I don’t expect shutdowns forever, but you definitely would see temporary shutdowns until commodity prices come back. And you may see that anyway, even with the program.”

The province loses income tax revenue and BC Hydro loses power sales when industries scale back or shut down, which would put pressure on government services and BC Hydro rates. That gives the province incentive to use a deferral program, he said.

Bennett vowed that the rate deferral would not be approved if BC Hydro price caps in the current rate plan were affected.

Hydro rates jumped nine per cent in 2014, followed by annual increases of six, four, 3.5 and three per cent in the 10-year rate plan. Starting with the proposed four per cent increase in 2016, the independent B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) is reviewing if rate increases can be lower than what is capped in the rate plan.

 

Just Posted

RCMP: Appledale homicide investigation still active

A 59-year-old man was found dead on May 20

RDCK appoints new regional fire chief

Nora Hannon has been acting head of the fire service since the old chief’s departure in the summer

Promoter fundraises for new Kootenay Country Music Fest

UPDATED: Travis Pangburn has de-activated the $150,000 Gofundme campaign

Kaslo commits to 100 per cent renewable energy plan

Nine local governments have made the pledge this year

Storm prompts travel warning for Boundary, West Kootenay

Up to 25 cm expected on high mountain passes

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Most Read