Pulling the plug
NWT Power faces huge loss

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 24/99) - If it's lights out for Giant Mine, it's not necessarily higher power costs for the rest of Yellowknife, an NWT Power Corp. spokesperson said.

At least not in the short term.

"Giant Mine is a significant customer. Loss of Giant, in itself, won't cause any rate adjustment for Yellowknife," Bill Braden, the utility's director of corporate development, said Wednesday.

The Giant Mine situation was forecasted and anticipated, Braden said.

Loss of Giant Mine-generated revenue will be partially offset by a decline in power generation costs, Braden adds.

Giant Mine historically buys about $5 million worth of power from the utility.

For the fiscal year ended March 31, Power Corp.'s total revenue from sale of power to the rest of Yellowknife was $15 million. The Snare system, which powers Yk, Giant, Rae-Edzo and Dettah, generated $23.5 million over the same period.

And, said Braden, there are other factors. It is not known if Miramar, which plans to buy Giant Mine and mill Giant's gold ore at its Con Mine, will need to buy power from the utility, he said. Miramar currently generates its own power needs from its Bluefish hydro plant.

So with the loss of Giant, the Power Corp. "won't be turning to the Public Utilities Board asking for a rate increase."

Having said that, the utility does expect to file a general rate review with the board late next year.

The rate review -- which may or may not include an increase -- is a scheduled one. Power Corp. is required to file the rate review every four years. In the past, there have been rate decreases, Braden said.

Braden's comments come after Canadian Auto Workers Local 2304 released a report on how the loss of Giant Mine would affect the city.

The report suggests closing Giant could "possibly force a rate increase."

As well as the loss of Giant as a major customer of the Power Corp., the union said many workers would likely be forced to pull up stakes.

Miramar said it would hire back only as many as 50 of Giant's 280 workers.

Some 110 miners own homes in Yk and 95 per cent said they would sell their homes if the mine were shut down.

Yellowknife Real Estate Board president Steve Vallillee said it is too early to tell how the situation will affect the housing market.

"There are about 140 (home) listings on the market now. We've had over 300," he said. "The market won't fold up its tent and collapse."

Vallillee also said if the Diavik project gets the green light, it will help the city's economy.

Yk has weathered change in the past such as government downsizing, government decentralization, an 11-month strike at the Con Mine, and Vallillee is optimistic it will continue to do so.

The city's ability to handle such changes suggests its economy is not as centred as it once was on government and mining, he said.