YESAB clears Mayo B

The Mayo B power project can be built without harming the environment, but it won’t solve unemployment woes in northeastern Yukon, according to the Yukon’s Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board. The release was Yukon Energy’s largest regulatory hurdle, with only a decision document from the Yukon Utilities Board left to go before it can begin construction on the project this summer.

The Mayo B power project can be built without harming the environment, but it won’t solve unemployment woes in northeastern Yukon, according to the Yukon’s Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board.

The release was Yukon Energy’s largest regulatory hurdle, with only a decision document from the Yukon Utilities Board left to go before it can begin construction on the project this summer.

Most of the recommendations in the board’s report, issued last Wednesday, deal with protections to spawning salmon in the Mayo River. The board advised no work be done in the river from late July to late August over the next two years – precisely the time when construction will peak at the site.

And while there were few other surprises in the boards’ 71 recommendations, the document did reveal the project to be an ill-fit for Mayo’s workforce. The village’s unemployment rate is roughly double the Yukon’s, on average.

While Mayo B will bring 65 to 120 jobs to the region, most specialized jobs will have to be filled by outsiders, says the report.

“But there will be some job opportunities for Yukon workers – particularly in less-specialized workers,” it says.

And while the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation and Yukon Energy have signed an agreement covering employment promises, it’s not clear that local contractors will have much time for the project.

Most tradespeople are already working on local contracts and many will have to import workers from elsewhere to compete for Mayo B jobs, says the report.

Yukon Energy brought construction companies from across the territory to last week’s job fair on Mayo B, such as Pelly Construction.

Goods and services companies supplying the construction camp are expected to benefit the most from the construction of the powerhouse, says the report.

There is not expected to be a boom-and-bust effect because Mayo B isn’t big enough and it has a firm timeline for completion.

The project’s main economic impact will peak next summer and late fall, says the report.

Despite being justified by the energy needs of future mines, the rejection of Western Copper’s Carmacks mine by the Yukon Water Board last week won’t derail the economics of the Mayo B project.

Throughout last year, the expensive $120-million project has been justified by the fact it will lower diesel costs and will allow Yukon Energy to take on more lucrative industrial customers, like mines.

But even with less projected revenues from Western Copper, the project is still economically sound.

“Even if the Carmacks Copper mine load does not materialize, the project will continue to provide cost savings relative to diesel generation each year as demonstrated,” says Yukon Energy’s application submitted to the

Yukon Utilities Board to build the powerhouse.

Yukon Energy president David Morrison confirmed Mayo B is still a net benefit without Western Copper on Friday.

The public utility still hadn’t entered into negotiations with Western Copper over a power deal, he said.

The Yukon Utilities Board is expected to release its decision on the Mayo B project in the next few weeks. Yukon Energy will begin construction should the board give Mayo B a green light.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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