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

Victoria Fire Department advises cigarette safety after two fires started in one week

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

VicPD faces ‘significant pressure’ following Victoria’s 2019 budget decision

Chief Const. Del Manak says council continues to micromanage his department

28 years later: Dunahee disappearance remains largest investigation in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

Saanich could become the new home of the world’s largest gnome

Galey Farms could find out Tuesday whether it will host the eight-metre-tall structure

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Jr. B Cougars advance to both league finals and provincials

Victoria beats Nanaimo 4-3 in Game 6 Friday night to win series

Vancouver Island motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash

Collision took place west of Whiskey Creek; man in his 70s died

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

Most Read