Red Lake amps up electricity fight – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – July 2012)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business

Out of power?

There’s a “looming electrical power crisis” in Red Lake, one of the world’s gold mining capitals, and its economic development officer is looking to garner regional support to push for transmission line upgrades.
Bill Greenway wants to kick off a lobbying campaign directed at the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to build a beefed-up transmission line to service a slate of new mine developments.
Since 1930, the Red Lake district has been a consistent producer of high- grade gold. But while much of the province’s power planning attention is directed at the Ring of Fire in the Far North, Greenway feels his town’s concerns have been placed on the backburner.
“I’d like to think we have a Ring of Gold,” said Greenway. He maintains the current 115 kV (kilovolt) high voltage serving Red Lake is inadequate to meet the municipality’s and industry’s future growth needs.
Goldcorp is expanding its operations and, combined with some junior miners, three new mines are expected in the next five years.
With an additional electrical load forecast of 120 megawatts by 2014, Red Lake could be out of power by then.
Mining companies like Goldcorp, Rubicon Minerals and Claude Resources have remained silent on the subject, but Greenway said without a more robust 230-kV transmission line, the municipality will be hamstrung on any future growth.
“I talk to (the mining companies) and they’re completely aware of it and support the position that we’re bringing forth.” Greenway said the power line has been a priority for him since he took the job six years ago. “I recognized it was a problem almost immediately.”
The OPA, which is working on a 20-year electricity power plan for northwestern Ontario, acknowledges more capacity is warranted to serve new mines and to connect isolated First Nation communities to the Ontario grid.
The option being considered for Red Lake is to twin the existing 115 kV line. Greenway said his calls for a 230-kV line have gone nowhere.
“They can’t ignore it any further, which they’ve done a very good job of to this point.”
Now Greenway is looking to take Red Lake’s fight to the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association
to get a seat on its energy task force table.
Greenway said without a 230 kV line, Red Lake will lose out on new housing, employment, tax assessment and spinoff revenue for the community from the new mines.
One major success has been the construction of a pipeline project by Union Gas to deliver natural gas
to Red Lake for the first time.

The first of two phases should be operational this fall.

Greenway said it could free up five to 10 megawatts of power for industry if residents convert from electric heating to gas.
Construction of a second phase is already underway.

As mining activity increases, Red Lake is feeling the development pressure.

Accommodations are always in short supply so Goldcorp is proposing a 54-unit subdivision that’s now in the design phase.
The municipality is overhauling its Official Plan to identify places to develop and infill.
A population projection forecasts Red Lake exceeding its current 4,400 to more than 6,000 by 2031.
“We’re looking at any area that we can start to build subdivisions of our own,” said Greenway.
Industrial space remains hard to come by.

A planned 40-lot industrial park on Nungesser Road is on hold after the anchor tenant, Two Feathers Forest Products, went into receivership.
Greenway said there’s a distinct possibility the park could proceed if a new tenant is secured.