Rio Tinto Alcan: no regard for community

Rio Tinto Alcan seems to be the topic of conversation that weighs heavy on the mind of council members and many concerned residents.

Christina Millington

Omineca Express

Rio Tinto Alcan seems to be the topic of conversation that weighs heavy on the mind of council members and many concerned residents.

Rio Tinto Alcan is a leading international mining group acquiring $350,000,000 to build upon their already two existing tunnels, which seems to have hit a communication barrier with Vanderhoof council members and residents in regards to future development.

Rio Tinto Alcan vice president, Paul Henning spoke to council members on July 16 regarding the companies plan to develop a third back-up tunnel to sustain the water levels coming in at the plant.

“What happens to Vanderhoof once the water is gone,” Thiessen said. “It’s a fear the community has.”

Currently two tunnels are fully operational at the Kemano power plant.

Concerns still revolve around whether or not council will go forth with the approval of a back-up tunnel at the plant with the little information they have on the project.

Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell has placed unsatisfactory guidelines on the district to make a decision by July 20 to decide whether or not to move forward with the tunnel.

During the July 16 council meeting, Mayor Thiessen expressed that the decision-making should be up to the provincial government regarding the magnitude of the decision.

“We very much look to the province. The province needs to be the one that makes the decision on it,” he said. “This is in the 1950 agreement that they had on the water license. They were given the authority to make that decision.”

Thiessen is cautious with moving forward with the construction of the additional tunnel as communities concerns have surfaced regarding the effects it may have on the Nechako River.

Rio Tinto Alcan is currently working on excavating the remaining 7.6 kilometres required to complete the partially built 16 kilometres 2nd tunnel, which would connect the existing penstocks at their West Tahtsa Lake location.

Concerns that have been addressed amongst council members is that this project has been in the works for several months without acknowledgement from the provincial government to the town of Vanderhoof or to the First Nations communities.

Rio Tinto Alcan has been aware of their need to connect with the First Nations communities, Saik’uz and Nadleh Whut’en allowing them the opportunity to put forth feedback regarding the project, as they are the original inhabitants of the land along the Nechako River, however, nothing has been facilitated.

“The scope of this project is so specific,”said Henning during council.