Between 2012 and 2015, Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine partnered with surrounding First Nations communities and provided early funding to create a joint-venture called Wataynikaneyap (Watay) Power, to bring electrical grid connection into the northwest region of Ontario, Canada, and potentially provide power to Musselwhite.
Musselwhite, a fly-in, fly-out operation located approximately 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, operates in a region where 25 remote First Nations communities rely on high-cost diesel generation as their sole source of electricity, burning approximately 25 million litres of diesel fuel a year to get electricity into their homes and businesses – enough diesel to fill 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools. With additional fuel delivery challenges and environmental disadvantages, this has limited the growth of the communities and their access to economic opportunities. Similarly, Musselwhite has also been significantly constrained by limited transmission grid capacity in the area, resulting in a heavy reliance on diesel generation.
In March 2018, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, and the Honourable Glenn Thibeault, Ontario Minister of Energy, announced $1.6 billion in federal funding for Wataynikaneyap Power to connect 16 First Nations communities to the provincial power grid. In addition, Ontario will apply existing ratepayer subsidies to support transmission connection and distribution costs.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Grand Chief, Alvin Fiddler, applauded the funding announcement. “This is a major achievement, and I honour the determination of Wataynikaneyap Power to bring reliable supplies of electricity to our remote First Nations.”
Wataynikaneyap Power, a licensed transmission company, is now equally owned by 22 First Nations communities (51%), in partnership with Fortis Inc. (49%). The Wataynikaneyap Power Project is the largest and most far-reaching Indigenous-led transmission project in the history of the province and will improve the quality of life for remote communities reliant on diesel, expanding infrastructure and economic development opportunities by providing clean, reliable electricity.
Construction of an 1,800-kilometre 230 kV transmission line began in 2018, with completion expected by 2024. The transmission line to Pikangikum First Nation is already underway and is scheduled for completion by late 2018. In addition, the project aims to have a transmission line reach the township of Pickle Lake by Q4 2020 which would help the medium/long-term power needs at Musselwhite, and also at Red Lake. When the 16 diesel power-dependent communities are fully plugged in, an estimated 14,000 people will have a reliable source of power, saving about $1 billion in energy costs over 40 years.
Peter Gula, Musselwhite’s Mine General Manager welcomes the construction of the transmission line. Reducing diesel fuel use will lower greenhouse gas emissions, by both the communities and the mine, and offer substantial environmental benefits and cost-savings over the long-term. “Goldcorp was integral in the beginnings of Watay and funded the project from inception through development of the terms of reference for an environmental assessment and was heavily involved in bringing together all of the First Nations partners. It’s a lasting example of collaboration and something we should be proud of,” said Peter.
The development of the Wataynikaneyap Power Project demonstrates what can be achieved when business and community interests are aligned and partnership results in mutually beneficial outcomes – the embodiment of Together, Creating Sustainable Value.