Nalcor exec gives Muskrat Falls update

Derek Montague
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Says project put $150 million into Labrador economy

An aerial view of the bulk excavation site at Muskrat Falls. In total, 2.2 million cubic metres of rock were removed.

Gilbert Bennett, Nalcor vice-president for the Lower Churchill project, is touting the Muskrat Falls project for the economic benefits being brought to Labrador.

While giving a project update to The Labradorian, Bennett estimated that an extra $150 million have been injected into the Labrador economy during the first 13 months of the project, between January 2013 and January 2014.

“When you look at benefits to workers, as well as Labrador based businesses, there’s about $150 million put into the economy here,” said Bennett.

In terms of wages, Bennett said that between $25 and $30 million have been paid out to Labradorian employees, not including any overtime pay.

“That’s a fairly substantial number,” said Bennett.

“Then you look at what happens to the economy. Once people bring that salary home, you can see that activity in the service sector. And people have disposable incomes. They’re going to spend that.”

Bennett also said that Nalcor is going to continue focusing on the Labrador Aboriginal Training Project, hoping to get more Aboriginal workers on site.

Between 2010 and 2012, the provincial government has poured $30 million into the partnership, with another $14 million added in June 2013. The new money is expected to carry the program through to 2015.

 

As of December 2013, LATP has trained nearly 400 aboriginals, with 120 going on to work on the Muskrat Falls project.

 

As of January 2014, there were 145 Labrador aboriginals employed on the project.

 

“There’s a number of training programs that we’re continuing to run with LATP and the (College of the North Atlantic), with the view of getting more people on the worksite,” said Bennett.

“We continue to focus on hiring. The support team here in the office is available and want to help get people through the hiring process.”

The last project update given to the media by Bennett was in a tour of the site in June 2013. At the time, the bulk excavation of rock for the powerhouse and spillway was just getting started. Now, more than eight months later, all of that work is complete. In total, 2.2 million cubic metres of rock was removed.

“We could rebuild the Great Pyramid (with the rock), if we piled it up into a pyramid,” said Bennett.

“Last June we were probably one-quarter to one-third of the way through of the excavation work at the powerhouse and spillway. Now you see that’s done. All the excavation is complete for the powerhouse and spillway. The site is levelled.”

Aside from the rock excavation, the biggest endeavour at Muskrat Falls was the right-of-way clearing for a transmission line between Muskrat Falls and Churchill Falls.

That part of the Muskrat Falls project hit a large snag earlier in the year, when Nalcor ended their contract with Great Western Forestry, the company hired to clear all the trees for the transmission line.

Bennett claims that, after the contract was taken over by the new contractor, Johnson’s, that the right-of-way clearing got back on schedule.

He would not comment, however, when asked if the right-of-way clearing was also on budget.

“Given that we’re into the broader legal issues with the forestry contract, I won’t get into that,” said Bennett.

Recently, the province’s natural resources minister, Derrick Dalley, announced that a Muskrat Falls oversight committee would be formed.

Bennett said he doesn’t mind this decision at all.

“It’s entirely appropriate that the province … has processes in place to make sure they’re confident in the work that we’re doing,” said Bennett.

derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Organizations: Muskrat Falls oversight committee

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, North Atlantic

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