Derrick Penner, The Province, April 27, 2016
British Columbia mines are getting a break worth $8 million per month from the provincial program that allows them to defer most of their most of their BC Hydro bills during tough times. Eight mines have signed up, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
Those deferrals would add up to $200 million, if all eight use up the program's allotted 24-months worth of deferrals over five years, according to a report from the ministry.
Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett launched the program in February in response to lobbying from the struggling mining sector, which was looking for assistance during tough times.
The measure was viewed by Mining Association of B.C. CEO Karina Brino as "immediate and meaningful relief" to help keep firms keep operations running through the slump in commodity prices, particularly copper.
Mines would be able to defer up to 75 per cent of their electricity bills for up to 24 months over five years, with BC Hydro holding debts for the companies. When it was launched, the Ministry of Finance estimated it would be worth up to $330 million if all eligible operations applied.
Deferred amounts will accrue interest at a rate of 12 per cent per year, but some of the companies that have applied to put off their bills report that it is of material assistance.
At current copper prices, the deferral gives Copper Mountain Mining Corp. a break on its production costs worth 20 cents per pound, and up to $22 million per year, company CEO Jim O'Rourke said in a statement announcing production results for its operations near Princeton.
Cost cutting and support, such as the deferral, "has greatly strengthened the mine's ability to weather the current global economic environment," O'Rourke said.
Imperial Metals Corp.'s three B.C. mines are taking part in the deferral program, the company said in its latest financial filings, including its Huckleberry Mine near Houston, which ceased open-pit mining operations in January, though it continues to process ore in its milling plant.
Imperial Metals other mines, Red Chris and Mount Polley - the mine that suffered a massive breach of its tailings dam in 2014 - are also taking part in the deferrals, for a total savings to Imperial of just over $2 million per month.
Thompson Creek Metals Inc.'s Mount Milligan mine northeast of Fort St. James and Taseko Mines Ltd.'s Gibraltar mine are the other facilities listed by the province as taking part in the deferral program.
Teck Resources Ltd.'s six mines and New Gold's New Afton gold operation near Kamloops were eligible but did not seek assistance under the program.