NEWS: Harper backs Muskrat Falls dam for cheap power for mining companies

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in Labrador today to announce a loan guarantee for the controversial Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project. CBC reports, "Multiple sources say the event, in the Labrador community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has been pulled together over the last 24 hours — a reflection of how quickly the loan negotiations have moved. ...Not only is the prime minister travelling to Goose Bay for the announcement, but sources said Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale has made last-minute plans to go, as has Nova Scotia Premier Darrel Dexter." Yesterday, APTN reported that Conservative MP Peter Penashue has business ties with a company doing work on the dam, prompting a call for an ethics commissioner investigation.

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project, that would be operational by 2017, includes a 32-metre high north dam and a 29-metre south dam. The Sierra Club Canada says, "The Lower Churchill Project would see the construction of two large hydroelectric dams on the Grand River (also known as the Churchill River) in Labrador, including a dam at Muskrat Falls. It would lead to significant and long-lasting damage to Grand River and its watershed, and to the wildlife it supports such as the threatened Red Wine caribou herd." The Canadian Press notes, "Power from Muskrat Falls would be brought to the island of Newfoundland and then to Nova Scotia through a sub-sea link."

In early-October, CTV reported, "Providing cut-rate power to mining companies in Labrador should not be a prime reason for developing the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject, says a growing cast of critics. ...Since the project was first announced in November 2010, Brendan Sullivan, a St. John’s businessman and former provincial government economist, said he has listened to the government’s messaging on Muskrat Falls shift from domestic power needs to export possibilities to increasing demands from mining interests. ...Government rhetoric in support of Muskrat Falls has in recent months highlighted potential mining projects in Labrador West. ...Teck Resources owns a copper and zinc mine in central Newfoundland and Vale operates the Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in northern Labrador." CBC has previously reported that Quebec-based mining company Alderon Iron Ore Corp. says it can’t have its proposed iron ore mine near Wabush, Labrador and Fermont, Quebec without power from Muskrat Falls.

Previous blogs on this situation can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16837 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16911. Our critique of the impacts of major dams around the world can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16719.