The Rio Tinto board has approved the US-$473 million completion of the Kemano Second Tunnel (T2) Project.
Construction to complete the second tunnel will start in spring of 2018 and is expected to be complete by 2020.
Rio Tinto B.C. Works general manager Gareth Manderson said the completion of the 8km stretch of the second tunnel will enhance the long-term security of the power supply for the Kitimat smelter.
“Completing this tunnel will ensure we have a stable, long-term power supply for the newly modernised smelter and our operations will continue to make a significant contribution to B.C.’s economy over the coming decades,” said Manderson.
“This investment will enhance B.C. Works’ position as a world-leading producer of low carbon aluminium through environmentally sustainable hydropower.”
The second tunnel will create a back up to the original tunnel that was built over 60 years ago.
“This will allow us to conduct maintenance work without shutting down our operations, ensuring we can continue to responsibly manage the Nechako Watershed reservoir system,” added Manderson.
He stressed that the second tunnel will connect to the existing power station with no new generators being built and that it would not draw any more water than what is currently allocated in the company’s water licence.
U.S. construction company Frontier Kemper Aecon has been appointed as the main contractor to deliver the majority of the construction scope and will be responsible for hiring the subcontractors and employees.
“Rio Tinto has a long term commitment to ensuring that our operations benefit the local communities in which we operate,” said Manderson. “While much of the work will be highly specialized, we are working with Frontier Kemper Aecon to ensure First Nations, and local and regional businesses that are competitive and meet requirements have the opportunity to be involved.”