Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Depressing News

The Black Press has purchased 11 papers from Glacier Media, in the Kootenies the Trail Daily Times, Grand Forks Gazette, Creston Valley Advance, Fernie Free Press,  and Nelson Daily News, in the Cariboo the Advisor group of  the Cariboo Advisor, Quesnel Advisor, and 100 Mile House Advisor and Prince Rupert Daily News and the Hagensborg Coast Mountain News

The Black Press already has papers in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince Rupert,  and Nelson.   In four of these towns the Black Press is closing the competing paper, only in Williams Lake are they keeping both papers open, though for how long anyone can guess.

They are closing four of the papers, two of which I can understand, the Quesnel Advisor and 100 Mile House Advisor, the Black Press already has papers in those towns.  The Black owned Nelson Star has only been around since 2008 and the Northern View in Prince Rupert since 2006.  It feels really odd that the Black Press would close the long established dailies in Prince Rupert and Nelson in favour of the recent start ups.   The only sense is that the existing dailies are union shops and this is a way to get rid of the CEP.

Not mentioned in much of the press about these purchases is that Glacier sold more papers, the Cranbrook Townsman and Kimberly Bulletin were purchased by Don Kendall who was a VP with Black Press

In the interior of BC there are very few small town papers not owned by David Black or his former VP.

No where west of Prince George can read a non Black Paper, between Prince George and Kamloops he owns then all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NovaGold releases an interesting report

NovaGold Resources, owners of the Galore Creek project in the northwest of BC just to the east of the Stikine River, has released their sustainability report.    It is interesting reading and the first time I have seen something of this caliber for a company that is more of an exploration outfit than a global mining giant.

Here are the principles the work to:

The principles of NovaGold's approach:

  • We respect Native Alaskan and First Nation groups and encourage continuous collaboration, so that their relationship with the land and the expertise gained from other mining operations adds value to our plans and processes.
  • We catalyze local and regional economies in the near and long term by identifying and developing resources in a way that considers the long-term impacts and benefits of operations.
  • We strive to reduce the risk of permitting delays by working closely with the appropriate government agencies and maintaining and nurturing collaborative working relationships with our aboriginal and community partners to identify a responsible, critical path for development.
  • We believe long-lasting social and economic benefits can flow to the communities in which we operate.

I am reasonably certain their approach is a corporate codification of their experience with the Tahltan.

I am sure there are people out there that will call this greenwashing, but that is short sighted.   The very fact the company is talking about this, is willing to express their approach to environmental issues, is talking about needing a social license to operate, says a lot about where we are at in 2010.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Alaska Congressman Don Young in favour of a connection to the grid

This is a story from the Wrangell Sentinel and came over my desktop via A. John Robertson of the 54-40 Discourse.

I am very happy to see interest from parts of Alaska in the idea of connecting the the Western Interconnect via BC.   The larger an area connected to the grid, the more consistent the whole grid is.   Alaska also offers some interesting opportunities for green power production.  Short term there is more benefit for Alaska as they will be able to import much cheaper power from BC and be able to switch off the existing diesel generators.

All in all, the interest from Alaska says to me that the Highway #37 line that is proposed is too small and is not going far enough.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Northwest Transmission Line Review

The review of the powerline is underway.  This is from the Terrace Standard

THE PROVINCIAL government's environmental assessment office has officially started to review the long-planned Northwest Transmission Line.
All of the required documentation needed to begin the scheduled 180-day review has been received and checked, says Kathy Eichenberger, the environmental assessment official who will be overseeing the review.
“The public comment period begins April 26 and lasts until June 10,” said Eichenberger in outlining some of the key elements of the review.
Public meetings are planned April 27 in Dease Lake, April 28 in Smithers and April 29 in Terrace.
The planned finishing date to have the assessment completed and handed to the environment and energy, mines and petroleum resources ministers for a decision is Oct. 12.
Those ministers have 45 days to decided to approve or not approve the project.
The transmission line, which would start at the Skeena Substation near Terrace, would run up Hwy37 North, ending at a place called Bob Quinn.
Its construction will lead to the ability of mining companies with promising properties to develop those properties because they will have access to reliable and cost-effective power.
Those companies will, however, have to build connecting lines to connect to the larger line.
Construction of the line will also open up the possibility of companies to produce power via run of river generators or other means and feed that power into the provincial grid.
If approved, the line will be built by the B.C. Transmission Corporation, a provincial crown corporation responsible for the province's electrical distribution network.
The anticipated cost is $404 million and the province is counting on a federal commitment to provide up to $130 million of that cost.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time to Treat the Electrical Grid like the Highways

We operate our highways as a public good for everyone, general public and business, as an engine of the economy. Our grid meanwhile is not operated in the same manner.

The division of BC Hydro into the BC Transmission Corporation and a new BC Hydro that deals with power generation and distribution to customers is an important move forward, but the mandate of the BCTC is not open enough to allow them to be the economic engine it could be for the province.

Businesses are not allowed to develop power in BC and use the grid to sell it to customers. If you develop power you have to either sell it to BC Hydro or you have to build your own separate transmission line. Businesses are not allowed to access the BCTC transmission network to move their power to an end user.

There is a division between BC Hydro and BCTC but the relationship between the two is very, very close. BC Hydro still looks after the transmission lines for BCTC. The roles of the two companies are very much intertwined.

What we need to see in BC is a BCTC that treats all producers of power the same and does not work hand in glove with one large entity. Ideally we also need to allow people to buy their power from whom they like, if I want to buy power from a private company, why should I not be allowed to do that?

If we were to make the separation between BCTC and BCHydro much bigger and allowed access to the grid for the supply of power to whomever, there would be a lot more interest in small scale green power production in rural BC. The scale of the small green power plants will lead to regular and ongoing construction, operation and maintenance work in small rural communities across the province.

The Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams Settlement

This week the process started to transfer 4166 hectares of lands to the two first nations as part of their settlement of their Cut Off Specific Claim. Most of the land will be a new jointly managed reserve between the two communities, but there will be several small parcels in much more useful locations close to Port Edward.

I highlight this settlement because it includes a large transfer of lands to First Nations, but it is not the only one. The fact that is different about these settlements is that it allows for land to be transfered to Indian Reserve status.

For decades the policy of the BC government was not to generally allow any provincial lands to be transfered to Indian Reserve status. In general under the NDP and Social Credit the only transfers were of lands related to moving a road or highway when it crossed a reserve.

Since the Liberals were elected in 2001 the province has changed their position and has allowed lands to be made into new Indian Reserves. I worked on specific claims in the past and was normally instructed to negotiate for more reserves lands. This was simply not an option in the 1990s, in fact in one settlement the band had to sign agreement that they would never ask for a piece of land to transfered to reserve status.

Allowing more lands to come under Indian Act administration allows for lands that bands govern and can use for development and housing. Many bands have small patchworks of reserves that are effectively ungovernable or undeveloped. Allowing bands to govern more will allow them to develop more capacity to manage their own affairs.

In the case of settlement with the two Tsimshian communities near Prince Rupert, the large new reserve lands make a consistent block of aboriginal jurisdiction between Metlakatla and Port Simpson. The bands also have lands near Port Edward along the railway and road, a 35 acre lot. There is another one further up the highway towards Terrace.

The land at Port Edward is well suited for commercial development by the band and to offer on reserve housing closer to Prince Rupert.

Ultimately in rural BC it is the First Nations that are going to some of the most important partners in economic development. If they have more and better lands, they will be able do more development.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Bold Idea

What would happen if the Canadian Forces moved the Pacific Fleet headquarters from Esquimalt to Prince Rupert?

In the Greater Victoria area there is low unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing. The CRD also has a crisis with available industrial land.

Prince Rupert is transitioning to be a a significant port on the west coast but is suffering from the vagaries of the resource industries. A naval base would offer a strong and consistent economic backing to the region.

With the naval base in Rupert, there would be a need for a drydock in Prince Rupert. With the new container port there will be major ships that need repairs from time to time, the naval base makes the economic case for the repair facility.

The Canadian Forces have close to 200 hectares of land in Esquimalt and 250 hectares in Colwood. The sale of these lands would net the federal government several billion dollars, enough to buy new lands in Prince Rupert and build the base there with money left over.

A new base in Prince Rupert would also have state of the art buildings and docks making it a better base than what we have now. The Canadian Forces would also have the chance to build decent quality on base housing. The quality of the houses the military has in the CRD is not exactly great.

Prince Rupert places the Canadian navy closer to Asia.

A navy base in Prince Rupert would also be the only NATO navy base on the north coast. The US has no navy bases in Alaska and having a NATO base in Prince Rupert would likely be of benefit to the Americans.

Having the base in Prince Rupert would also be of benefit to the ordinary seamen in the Canadian navy as housing would be much more affordable.

The idea is bold and has many upsides, but I am sure it will be shot down because it involves change and people are inherently conservative and resistant to change.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cassiar, just one of many rural towns that are gone.

There was a time when a mine opened a community was built to house the people that worked there. There was a time when government promoted the idea of rural communities. We are slowly but surely going towards a time when there will be no small rural towns. One town that disappeared was Cassiar BC.

Cassiar was founded in 1952 for the asbestos mine that opened. The mine operated for 40 years and closed rather quickly in 1992. The town had up to 1500 people living there at one time. The community had a ski hill, schools, churches, ice arena, and a swimming pool. After the end of the mine it was all pulled down.

The area had been the site of a gold rush in the 1870s, the Kaska Dene have lived in this region for years but even their community is dwindling. Good Hope Lake is a few kilometers from the old Cassiar townsite but only has a population of 32 people now.

Cassiar was once the largest community in the whole Cassiar country, it was half the population of the country.

The Cassiar country is currently under consideration for numerous mines and has a timber resource available. Located right at the Cassiar access road and the Cassiar Stewart highway is the Table Mountain gold mine of Hawthorne Gold Corp. There is also a placer mining operation in the area. In general the area has a high potential for various different mines - Kutcho Creek, Turnagain, Cassiar Moly, Nizi/Cry Lake, and Red Chris are some of the ones in the region.

The lack of a local population makes the ability to hire staff for a mine harder. It also makes it harder to make good land use decisions when there are almost no people personally connected to the land.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Foerst Industry could be recovering.

Several BC companies recently released their latest results.

West Fraser Timber
reported a much better fourth quarter for 2009 than the rest of the year, in fact if you remove one the charges, an assest write down, the company made money in the fourth quarter.

Interfor reports much the same sort of improvement in the fourth quarter.

Canfor meanwhile did not have as good a quarter, though did better with pulp. Things are looking up enough that they are re-opening their Chetwynd sawmill after a two year closure.

The fact these three companies seem to be doing better should improve the market for logs in the interior. Higher prices means better times for First Nation timber harvesting businesses.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Three Timber Supply Reviews Released

Given the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, I am very interested to see where the latest timber supply reviews are going. Last week three interesting papers were released:

Kingcome TSA
Kootenay Lake TSA
Prince George TSA

Kingcome TSA - part of the North Island Central Coast Forest District
Kingcome is a coastal TSA that has had an AAC of 1,232,000 cubic metres a year. The new TSR has reduced the AAC to 1,100,000. Not a large reduction from the current AAC and there is more than enough space to make this reduction through the non-replaceable forest licenses. NRFL have had an AAC of 170,000 cubic metres a year, though 47,646 cubic metres has been allocated to First Nation NRFLs.

The drop in AAC will make some impact on employment, but in many years lately the full AAC has not be achieved. The 10% drop in AAC will mean the loss of about 100 to 200 jobs in BC. The AAC is projected to continue to fall by 10% per decade till it reaches 728,400 cubis metres and then rising to about 963,000 for the long term.

Kootenay Lake TSA
This is not a final TSR, but a discussion paper. The latest analysis has a base case for AAC that is about 10% lower than the 2001 TSR base case. The assumption is that the long term sustainable yield will be reached in about 2040 and it will be between 544,000 cubic metres. There is no indication of any dramatic falldown in harvesting levels in the TSA.

I surprised that there is not a larger impact on the AAC from the problems with lodgepole pine. Even in this TSA the lodgepole is the leading species on 28% of the timber harvesting land base.

Prince George TSA
This is in the heart of the beetle kill. It is also the centre of forestry for North America.

In 1996 the AAC was 9.363.661 cubic metres, this rose to 12,244,000 in 2002 to deal with the dead lodgepole pine. That was raised again in 2004 to 14,944,000.

The paper has three scenarios under review, one continues with the current high volume of salvage and the other two drop this to the 2002 volume. In all three scenarios harvest levels remain high for 12-15 years and then quickly falls to 4.2 million in scenario one and 6.1 million in scenario 2A. Scenario 2B drops earlier but less steeply and finishes between one and 2A at the trough.

In 1 and 2A, the long term harvest level will be achieved in 2058 to 2068 and be close to the 1996 harvest level.

The times will be tough from about 2020 to 2048.

What all three analysis's are saying to me is that BC will still have a a large and significant portion of the timber harvest in Canada long into the future. It is not unreasonable to expect a 60,000,000 cubic metre harvest in 2060 in BC.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rural Tourism Conference 2010

Tourism is being touted as one of the economic vehicles to help rural communities diversify. I am not opposed to the idea, I am just no convinced that it is a economic activity that can be core to a community. The communities that are tourism focused (Whistler, Tofino, Pemberton) tend to be have a much larger divide between rich and poor.

In BC Thompson Rivers University and Vancouver Island University are putting a lot of energy into rural tourism, and I am very happy to see this. There is an interesting blog to read from Nicole Vaugeois, the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development at Vancouver Island University.

Conferences are all good and well, but will there be real results that will help communities improve their tourism sector? However you slice it, one of the big problems many rural communities have in BC is that they are not close enough for people to want to go there. Fort St James has some interesting and beautiful wilderness around it, but it is a long way off of the beaten path.

British Columbia’s 1st Conference on Rural Tourism, April 6-8th, 2010 is being hosted by Thompson Rivers University School of Tourism and partner organizations. The conference will be held in British Columbia’s stunning rural North Shuswap, Talking Rock Resort and Quaaout Lodge.

Tourism experiences can contribute to the livelihood and economic diversity of rural communities and local residents. The conference is intended to bring together key players and community members to address the challenges associated with selecting and building tourism experiences. Environmental and social sustainability are equally valuable to tourism experiences in rural communities and will be a vital component of the conference.

The conference is directly related to the work underway by the REDTREE Project and the ongoing work of the Tourism Research Innovation Project (TRIP).

We encourage those who operate, manage, support, and study tourism in rural areas to attend the conference. The conference will provide opportunities for these individuals to share knowledge, insights, develop their skills and build partnerships for rural tourism product development and implementation. The knowledge and experience acquired at the conference is intended to assist rural communities in achieving economic diversification through rural tourism.

The conference will include interactive discussions, presentations, case studies, and hands on mobile workshops that will allow attendees to return to their communities with practical and valuable information.

The conference is made possible primarily through funding from Western Economic Development Canada’s Community Economic Development Initiative.

To learn more, send email to

Friday, January 29, 2010

Northwest Transmission Line Project Offical Application to EAO

This is good to hear, though I still think that the line should be a much larger one and should be extended all the way to Alaska and Yukon. You can follow the details at the EAO here.

Here is the story for the Kitimat Sentinel

The plan to extend the provincial power grid up north by building a power line has officially been submitted for environmental approval.

The application was made today by the provincially-owned BC Transmission Corporation to the provincial Environmental Assessment Office.

That office now has 30 days to decide if the application submitted for the Northwest Transmission Line meets all of the criteria needed to start an environmental review.

The review is to last 180 days, although it can be halted if unforeseen issues do arise.

The transmission corporation was given a $10-million budget 18 months ago by the provincial government to prepare the submission.

Although the provincial Liberals want to build the line - and at one time committed $250 million to an estimated construction budget of $400 million - it has yet to confirm its monetary commitment.

That $250 million commitment was made in 2007 when it had a private partner, NovaGold Resources, willing to put up the rest of the money.

But that fell through and the project was put on hold when NovaGold, which wanted power for its Galore Creek copper mine development, halted work when the Galore project became too expensive.

In Sept. 2008, the province renewed plans to at least prepare the line application for an environmental review after extensive lobbying by mining companies and northwestern governments.

Backers of the line say that it will be a lot easier to convert promising mineral properties into working mines if a source of stable power was available

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kokish Hydroelectric Project near Port McNeil

The Kokish Hydroelectric Project has a draft terms of reference within the BC Environmental Assessment process. There is a comment period till Feb 11th. Public meetings were held in Alert Bay and Port McNeil last week.

The Kokish River Hydroelectric project is a partnership between the 'Namgis First Nation and Brookfield Renewable Power. The plan is for a 45 Mw powerplant producing between 150 and 200 GWh/yr. The biggest issue with respect to the environment is the impact on the fish in the river. I assume much of the assessment process will be about fish issues. The full description of the project can be found here.

This project is a very positive thing to see. Rural First Nations in BC need to find more opportunities to create jobs and to create revenues that are not under the control of the Federal government. A project like this will create a moderate number of jobs in the construction process and a few ongoing jobs in running the facility. As more non storage hydro facilities go into operation, there will be increased long term fulltime jobs.

The gross revenues of the project should be at least $9,000,000 a year. I am not sure what the operating costs will be and costs involved with financing so it is hard to estimate what the return will be to the partners. After the cost to build it accounted for, it is reasonable to think the partners will see a million dollar return per year. For the 'Namgis this means they will be closing in on 45% of their revenues coming from non Federal Government sources.

The partnering with a company that has a track record in being able to develop non storage hydro projects will also lead to a transfer of knowledge to the 'Namgis. As they develop more human resource capacity for projects like this, the easier it will be for them to develop projects without partners. The 'Namgis already own a 12% stake in Orca sand and gravel quarry. In general the 'Namgis are proactive in building economic opportunities for their community.

The 'Namgis are looking at several other small scale hydro projects. One is also with Brookfield this is a 6.6MW one on Clint Creek. The other is still in the very early stages, a 9.9Mw one on the East Fork of the Kokish River in partnership with Innergex Renewable Energy. As these are built, the overall costs of operating all of them will fall and the returns to the 'Namgis will improve.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rail Links in the Northwest

I am curious why the rail link to Kitimat has not been used to make a larger use of the port facilities there? It strikes me as another good location for a small container port and for a bulk terminal. With the lose of Eurocan, Kitimat needs to really focus on the port.

Another port that is underused is Stewart. If a rail link were built through to Yukon and Alaska, this community makes sense for a spur line.

Both of these ports, along with Prince Rupert, would make the demand for the mainline from Prince Rupert to Edmonton much higher. From a rail line perspective, this a better and easier route to maintain that the CP route through the Fraser Canyon and then the Rockies.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Province Issues Environment Assessment Certificate for the Prosperity Mine

The Prosperity mine is located near Taseko Lake in the Chilcotin, it is about 125 km from Williams Lake. It was granted an environment assessment certificate today.

The deposit is a large copper gold porphyry. It has been on the radar of prospectors since the 1930s. The property has been owned by Taseko Mines ltd since 1969. Taseko is not just an exploration junior, they operate the copper-moly Gibraltar mine 75 km northwest of Williams Lake.

The Taseko mine has a 20 year life span at the moment. The capital cost to build the mine is estimated to be about $807,000,000. Employment by the mine is estimated to be about 375 people per year. The mine will produce 247,000 ounces of gold and 108,000,000 pounds of copper per year. At today's gold and copper price, this is over $700 million a year. The mine remains in the black even if the price of both gold and copper drop to one third of where they are now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some new places we could use ferries in BC

I am suggesting some new routes because BC Ferries has some surplus small ferries now that the Golden Ears Bridge is in place and there is no need for the Albion Ferry.

Tofino - Ahousat The population on Ahousat is higher than many gulf islands currently being served by BC Ferries. This could be combined with a stop on Meares Island

Lund - Cortes Island This link would allow another way out for Cortes Island people and improve the tourism circle route options. It also offer another way out of the Powell River area.

Langdale - New Brighton on Gambier The population of Gambier is small but growing, it is ready for a small ferry.

With the dock being available, could BC Ferries not consider a service from Little River near Comox to Tsawwassen?

Maybe it is time for BC Ferries ot consider a service from Sidney to the San Juan Islands?