Companies want coal, nuclear and fossil fuel power

Mining companies want power plants that run on coal, nuclear fuel, oil and natural gas in the Yukon, according to government consultation documents.

Mining companies want power plants that run on coal, nuclear fuel, oil and natural gas in the Yukon, according to government consultation documents.

The big quartz mines of the future need large-scale power sources – not to mention a transmission line to British Columbia – to be viable, say companies that commented in a consultation on an upcoming independent power producer policy.

While British Columbia embraced independent power production to corner the “green energy” market, many companies that commented on the Yukon plan want power plants tailored to conditions here.

And, in some cases, tailored to the minerals they have on offer.

Cash Minerals and Largo Resources put forward nearly identical submissions pushing for the construction of a 50-megawatt coal plant in south-central Yukon.

Cash, which has since renamed itself Pitchblack Resources, has claims on a coal deposit named Division in the area.

Largo has an undeveloped tungsten-molybdenum mine nearby named Northern Dancer.

Both companies want Cash to build a power plant at the mouth of its future coal mine to power Northern Dancer.

The Division power plant has “obvious potential” and could even produce 200 megawatts, says Largo’s submission.

As for green energy, the companies tout clean coal technology without defining what it is.

And Cash’s submission quotes a study which found coal produces less carbon emissions than diesel.

“Admittedly this could vary on a case-by-case basis,” says Cash.

Barring coal, Largo wants a small-scale nuclear plant to power Northern Dancer.

Other northern remote communities in Alaska and Siberia are opening the door to small-scale nuclear, says Largo’s submission.

The company believes wind power is too unreliable and expensive, while hydro projects are too far down the road to respond to the Yukon’s pressing energy needs.

The government is courting opinions in designing its independent power production policy, meant to open the energy market in the Yukon.

In two to three years, the Yukon’s publicly owned power corp., Yukon Energy, will have to bring back diesel due to a rising demand from both residents and industrial customers. (See story page 11.)

That prompted the Yukon government to follow a trend down south – inviting private companies to build power plants of varying size.

The government initially wouldn’t share the submissions from companies and individuals, but eventually published the advice on Friday.

A survey of the submissions shows a clear divide between those who want small, renewable power plants on the grid, and the mining companies who require a major leap in generation.

Many mining companies don’t want a cap on the power supply that would be sold to Yukon Energy, though there are varying opinions on how the public utility should buy the power.

Mining companies are generally dismissive of power sources like wind and run-of-river power plants due to their small-scale and reliability issues.

“In that regard, use of natural gas should be encouraged,” says Western Copper’s submissions.

But that hinges on the Alaska Gas Pipeline Project, which is neither near-term nor certain.

Oil pumped out of the ground in the Yukon would be better than oil from afar, says the Yukon Mineral Advisory Board’s submission.

“Such technologies as clean coal, and the net environmental footprint of locally derived oil and gas could provide lower footprint alternatives compared to imported fuel-based systems, and should be encouraged,” it says.

There is even a push to build a transmission line to either Alaska or British Columbia.

“Yukon needs to develop a broad strategy for the provision of large-scale, lower-cost power in the Yukon, which almost certainly requires Yukon to connect into the BC and/or Alaska grids so that excess power has a commercial outlet,” says Minto Explorations’ submission.

The Yukon Mineral Advisory Board and the Yukon Chamber of Mines also want a continental transmission connection.

The Daylu Dena Council, a Kaska First Nation in Northeastern British Columbia, is supportive of a major power line connecting Watson Lake to either Alberta or BC.

The Kluane First Nation want to replace its dependence on diesel generators with a run-of-river project in Destruction Bay.

The only renewable company to make a submission is Northern Power Systems, a Vermont-based wind turbine manufacturer.

It specializes in a wind-diesel power generator intended to compensate for wind’s unreliability.

The submissions include a long list of individuals who, in general, oppose nonrenewable energy or private energy.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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