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

Foursome unites in Fort Langley show

A new exhibition of art opened Wednesday at the Fort Gallery.

Langley has no legion branch but will have poppy sales

A special poppy campaign starts later this month and needs volunteers.

Love of music shared with Langley’s little musicians

A Grade 11 R.E. Mountain student stepped up, realizing many local families couldn’t afford lessons.

Second Langley man found guilty in $6 million fraud

The co-accused in the Aggressive Roadbuilders fraud admitted his guilt in court.

Clover Valley Beer Festival will return to Cloverdale next summer

Organizers announce early bird tickets available for three beer festivals

Rick Mercer says pot is ‘excruciatingly boring’

Comedian hopes Canadians will move onto something else once marijuana is legalized

Feds aiming to select preferred design for $60B warships by end of month

Defence insiders say the government wants to select a design by the end of the month from among three options submitted by several of the largest defence and shipbuilding companies in the world.

Defence cautions against mob justice in Calgary child neglect trial

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark of Calgary have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death

Feds eyeing options to expedite pardons for minor pot convictions

Internal discussions have focused on an application-based process for speeding up pot pardons

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to dominate North American marijuana industry

Cannabis producers claim the U.S. is “rapidly losing” its competitive advantage to Canada

Battle resumes over speculation tax on B.C. vacant homes

Opposition calls it ‘fake’ tax that is reducing housing supply

Around the BCHL: Merritt, Chilliwack and Coquitlam early-season surprises

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s going on in the league and throughout the junior A world.

Federal government tables bill to transform prisoner segregation

Administrative and disciplinary segregation will be eliminated by Ottawa

Most Read