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Line up Labrador north coast would need federal help, Premier says

A transmission line up the north coast, like the one pictured above, would be a ‘long-term play’ according to the Premier.
A transmission line up the north coast, like the one pictured above, would be a ‘long-term play’ according to the Premier. - Evan Careen

LABRADOR, N.L. — A transmission line to the north coast of Labrador isn’t a new idea. It’s been brought up by governments and politicians past, both as a stand-alone project and as part and parcel of the Muskrat Falls megaproject.

A few weeks ago the idea resurfaced, this time by the leadership of the Innu Nation.

A recent announcement by Vale that they were expanding the nickle mine in Voisey’s Bay underground and extending the life of the project by potentially decades spurred the idea, to get both the mine and the communities on the coast off diesel.

Premier Dwight Ball spoke with the Labradorian recently about the idea, which he said is part of a ‘big discussion.’

“There’s a lot of discussions we need to have; it would be a big, big infrastructure project to take on. There’s a lot of hydropower in Labrador so I understand why people would want to have that discussion. I see opportunities within partnerships with the federal governments and the province and the indigenous governments themselves to support a project like this.”

 He said it would be a long-term play and a “big, big” investment in the infrastructure to be able to take on a transmission line to the north coast. He said it’s not something the province would be able to tackle alone. He also pointed out that Vale have not asked for a transmission line.

“This is not something that they’ve asked for. They have the capacity with the additional investment that they’re going to make in power supply. It’ll be diesel.”

Diesel, which powers both that project and communities on the coast, is a bit of a dirty word these days. The federal government has committed to reduce reliance on diesel in remote and rural communities, which Ball said has been part of this conversation considering the alternatives to diesel.

“Wind, solar, a combination backstopped by diesel, backstopped by other sources of energy,” he said. “There’s a broad discussion happening now, not just on a transmission line to the coast but on how you get those northern communities off diesel.”

North Coast Road

A road up the coast is also part of this conversation.

Greg Rich, Grand Chief of the Innu Nation, told the Labradorian in a recent interview that it would be the perfect time to build one, if the other was being built.

Ball said a road would also be a long-term project and a huge undertaking, one the province could also not do alone.

“It is not something that you could just take on as a province, you would need the federal government and the indigenous governments to be key partners,” he said.

The Premier said early numbers on a road ranged from $600 million to a billion dollars and then there would be the questions about maintenance and how to keep the road open in winter.

Both are long-term projects, Ball said, 15-20 years by nature in terms of road construction alone, but now the dialogue is open.

“You have to start the discussions somewhere and see where they end up.”

Evan.careen@thelabradorian.ca

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