YEC and Sherwood miss deadline, but something’s up

It has been an odd week when it comes to Yukon Energy Corporation deals with mining companies. Officially, the $24-million electricity deal between…

It has been an odd week when it comes to Yukon Energy Corporation deals with mining companies.

Officially, the $24-million electricity deal between the energy corporation and Sherwood Copper, owner of the Minto copper mine, is dead in the water.

But unofficial, behind-the-scenes signals coming from the energy corporation, the Yukon government and other sources suggest the deal is alive and kicking.

The deadline set by the Yukon Utilities Board for revising the agreement between the Energy Corp. and Sherwood has passed without a deal — just as YEC president David Morrison predicted one week ago.

The Wednesday deadline was given by the utilities board in its rejection of the original deal, which it issued on May 1.

That impossibly tight timeframe was set to allow the board to proceed with a planned ‘part three’ review of the entire Carmacks-to-Stewart Crossing grid-extension project, scheduled for Tuesday.

That review would be “pointless” if there wasn’t hope of salvaging a deal with Sherwood, said Morrison in an interview last week.

“Can I guarantee the board next week that I have a document? No,” said Morrison on May 2.

“But if I believe I have the ability of still making a deal with Minto, I would want the part three to go ahead. If I don’t think I can get a deal, yeah, if we don’t have any customer, the point of building the line is gone.”

A letter on the board’s review, issued Wednesday by YEC lawyer John Landry, hints the deal may have a chance.

Landy informed the board that the energy corporation “has not reached agreement with Minto on changes to the PPA required by the board.”

But he ended the letter with a promise that YEC will notify the board “as soon as possible” if a deal is salvageable.

And don’t for a second believe an agreement isn’t being worked on behind the scenes.

On Thursday morning, reporters were called by Yukon Party government spokesperson Roxanne Vallevand inviting them to a hastily called news conference on “energy policy.”

A half-hour later, government spokesperson Albert Petersen abruptly cancelled the media briefing.

No explanation was given for the cancellation.

What gives?

Energy Corp. spokesperson Janet Patterson had an idea.

“I don’t know what happened over at the Yukon government, but I think — and I’m just speculating here — that it was felt we were close to a deal and then, I don’t know,” she said.

“The government probably felt it was wise just to hold off.”

Morrison is in Vancouver meeting with Sherwood officials, and is still working toward reaching an agreement-in-principle on a revised deal, she said.

Sherwood president Stephen Quin, who last week was in Europe when the Utilities Board decision arrived — and who told the News there was little chance of a new deal in an interview last week — has also met face-to-face with Morrison, she added.

Landry’s letter also noted the likelihood of a deal and provided insight into who’s involved in the negotiations.

“YEC officials have been meeting, and will continue to meet, with Minto, Yukon Development Corporation and the YTG in an attempt to reach a new agreement consistent with the board’s order,” he wrote.

Asked for clarification, Patterson explained that telephone conversations between officials in the Yukon government and Sherwood are part of the negotiations.

Pressed, she revealed that development corporation chair Willard Phelps is part of the deal-making team.

She didn’t know who within the government might have been participating, she said.

But Premier Dennis Fentie contradicted Patterson, saying the government is not involved in the negotiations with Sherwood.

“Nobody in this office has been on the phone with Minto on any matter,” he said on Thursday.

Why was a news conference called, then cancelled?

 “The issue here was there was a potential announcement; we were trying to accommodate the media, given you’re always beating us up because we don’t meet your timelines or we’re not available,” said Fentie.

“But we have to wait until those two corporations conclude their business. And we’re assured the corporation is prepared to answer the YUB’s questions.”

Despite the strange, cross-wired signals coming out of Fentie’s government, the energy corporation is confident of a deal by Monday.

Morrison and Quin and their respective camps are quite close to a deal, said Patterson.

 “The hope is, because the part-three hearing is supposed to start on Tuesday, that we can say either, ‘Yes, we have an agreement in priciniple or, ‘No, it’s a no go’ by Monday to the YUB,” she said.

“Obviously by Monday we want to be able to say, ‘Go ahead or don’t go ahead.’”