Northwest Transmission Line unplugged?

The Northwest Transmission Line passes through seven different First Nations territories including the Gitanyow.

On May 8th, 2011, just two days after the federal government gave the environmental thumbs-up on the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL), two B.C. First Nations say they will join forces to fight against the major power line.

The NTL is slated to run through seven different First Nations territories, four of which have yet to sign agreements with B.C. Hydro. About one-third of the line would pass through territory belonging to the Gitanyow and Lax Kw’alaams, who claim that B.C. Hydro has been inflexible in negotiations about their participation and compensation. The bands, subsequently, are threatening blockades. The Chiefs of the respective bands have said they will not accept B.C. Hydro’s one-time cash offer, comparing the offer to “beads” in exchange for land.

On April 11th, after over a year of attempting to negotiate with BC Hydro regarding the proposed NTL to be constructed through Gitanyow Territory, the Gitanyow Chiefs received a “No” from BC Hydro’s representatives concerning the outstanding issue of revenue sharing. This response was delivered to the Gitanyow First Nations despite the directive from the BC Utilities Commission to BC Hydro in early February 2011 to engage in revenue sharing discussions with Aboriginal Nations whose rights will be impacted by transmission line projects.

In 2008, The Mining Association of BC commissioned a study that evaluated the economic benefits of establishing a high-voltage transmission line in northwest British Columbia. According to the study, the NTL would result in at least $15 billion in new investment in mining and power generation for the remote region. The study said the NTL has the potential to create more than 10,000 new jobs, allow new green power projects to link to the provincial transmission grid, and generate $300 million in new tax revenue annually.

Last year, the Northwest Powerline Coalition released a video highlighting the various benefits associated with the Northwest Transmission Line:

A number of mining companies have been patiently waiting for power in the region. Imperial Metals (TSX:III) is developing the Red Chris copper/gold project and the operation is dependent upon completion of the Northwest Transmission Line. Red Chris anticipates being able to connect to the NTL’s Bob Quinn hydro station approximately 120 km from the proposed mine site.

At least two other junior miners are also relying on the development of the Northwest Transmission Line. Copper Fox Metals (TSXV:CUU) and Hard Creek  Nickel (TSX:HNC) are also very much dependent on the project. In a recent interview with, Copper Fox President & CEO Elmer Stewart noted, “The NTL is fundamental to the development of the large copper deposits located in northern British Columbia including Schaft Creek.  Without this supply of electricity, the capital and operating costs would increase which directly impacts the economics of these deposits.” And Mark Jarvis, President of Hard Creek Nickel, said the NTL was “the key infrastructure element we need to advance our Turnagain Nickel project to a reality.”

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