A small Indian band in Northern B.C. says it will not support a $400-million transmission line that would cross through its traditional territory, creating a snag for a project that is a linchpin for billions of dollars worth of industrial development in the region.
B.C. Hydro has refused to discuss several key issues, including a comprehensive land management plan and measures to protect threatened moose populations in the area, Gitanyow spokesman Glen Williams said.
“We are not supporting the project until these issues get addressed,” Mr. Williams, a Gitanyow hereditary chief, said on Tuesday, adding that the band does not feel it has been consulted to the degree spelled out in previous court decisions involving aboriginal claims and resource development.
“We have gone to court a number of times – governments have not really implemented any of those decisions. So basically we are going to inform any contractors or consultants that there is really no activity on the territory. And there will be no transmission line built in the territory.”
The parties met on Monday without reaching an agreement and have been talking for more than a year. The band says B.C. Hydro has refused to discuss any revenue-sharing for the project, which the Gitanyow say will cut a swath through their traditional territory and create an “ever-widening corridor” for development.
A B.C. Hydro spokesperson was not available for an interview on Tuesday. But in an e-mailed statement, a spokesman said the utility hopes to keep talking to the band.
“The Gitanyow is clearly frustrated with the negotiations and we remain committed to staying at the negotiating table – as we have for the past year – because we share the goal of reaching an agreement that is fair and meaningful for all,” Greg Reimer, B.C. Hydro’s executive vice-president for transmission and distribution, said in the e-mail.
B.C. Hydro has signed impact and benefit agreements with several bands, including the Nisga’a Nation, in relation to the new power line. And in February, when the provincial government gave an environmental assessment certificate to the project, it said “the province is satisfied the Crown’s duties to consult and accommodate First Nations interests and the Nisga’a Nation’s treaty interests have been discharged.”
The Northwest Transmission Line would run 344 kilometres from near Terrace to a new substation near Bob Quinn Lake.
Running roughly parallel to Highway 37, the transmission line would provide electricity to areas that are now off the grid and make it possible to develop some of the region’s big mineral deposits.
“Red Chris is on track to plug in as soon as the line is built,” Mining Association of British Columbia president Pierre Gratton said on Tuesday.
Red Chris, a $443-million copper-gold project being developed by Vancouver-based Imperial Metals, is contingent on the new power line. So are a number of other projects in the region, including Teck’s Galore Creek project, a copper-gold mine that was shelved in 2007 as a result of ballooning costs but is getting a fresh look this year.
Mr. Williams said the Gitanyow band, which has about 900 members, has requested a meeting with Premier Christy Clark and Energy Minister Rich Coleman to discuss the band’s concerns.