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

Prince Rupert officer charged after pedestrian struck at crosswalk

A man suffered a broken leg and head lacerations after being struck by the police vehicle in 2017

Muddy water found in taps at Prince Rupert hospital prompts investigation

Northern Health to hire consultant to examine three facilities for potential contamination

Vandalism not the cause of two power outages in Prince Rupert

BC Hydro reported 2,932 customers briefly out of power on March 22

Tribesmen defeat Haida 77-61 in semi-final matchup at 2018 Junior All Native Basketball Tournament

Prince Rupert Tribesmen advance to finals to face Gitmidiik Storm

Column: A salmon fisheries collapse is a terrifying thought

How a potential sockeye and chinook closure will affect fishers in Northern B.C.

This Week Podcast — Episode 77

Members of Complete Streets for Prince Rupert speak on the show on how to improve pedestrian safety

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

‘Not well thought out:’ Arizona family slams B.C. speculation tax

American family spends half the year in vacation home on Vancouver Island

Family of B.C. wildfire victim wants better emergency preparedness for vulnerable people

Williams Lake’s David Jeff “fell through the cracks”

Senate backs bill to legalize recreational marijuana

Justin Trudeau reminded senators that his government was elected on a promise to legalize pot

Where Canadians buy real estate abroad: report

Hot Spots: Top 30 home-buying destinations for Canadians in the Americas

Ban on grizzly bear hunt, new rules take effect April 1

Taxidermists, tanners will have to report on any grizzly bears or parts brought to them

Ontario father grief stricken over murder of ex-wife and children

‘No words to explain,’ grieving father of slain teens says in statement

Russian Embassy calls Trudeau’s criticism of Putin unproductive

The Russian Embassy is firing back at Trudeau for criticizing President Vladimir Putin

Most Read