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November 10, 2000
(Mines and Energy)


The following statement was issued today by Mines and Energy Minister Paul Dicks:

It is, and always has been, the main objective of this government to develop the tremendous resource of the Churchill River for the benefit of the people of this province. That development has to be viable and profitable.

For some time, we have been engaged in discussion with Hydro Quebec as well as other potential partners and customers in an effort to reach the right deal. All along, we have said that we will not jeopardize our position by negotiating in public, but that once a deal is reached, government will ensure that the public is well informed.

We would be remiss not to explore all options open to this province. Over the past two years many project configurations have been discussed with Hydro Quebec. This is a normal commercial process which any major project undergoes in an effort to optimize profits and minimize risks.

In May, it became clear to us and to Hydro Quebec that developments in US markets were making it difficult to finalize the partnership arrangements as previously outlined. For this reason, we both agreed to pause negotiations over the summer. Since that time, we talked to other potential partners and started to seriously focus on a 100 per cent Newfoundland and Labrador owned Lower Churchill Project.

At the end of August, it became clear that environmental and aboriginal issues in the province of Quebec would lessen the chances of a diversion of the Romaine River taking place. As a result, this government decided that we would propose to develop this project as a 100 per cent owner and Hydro Quebec would be a major purchaser. There would be no diversion of Quebec water into Labrador. This concept is simple and we feel can be captured in a final binding agreement. In fact, we continue to have a positive working relationship with the province of Quebec on this and other matters of importance to Newfoundland and Labrador.

What we are currently discussing with Hydro Quebec is their role as a customer of Gull Island power. We have also discussed this with other potential buyers. There seems to be some confusion about the status of this project. Let me clarify: a deal is not done, Quebec is not out of the picture, and we have not suddenly limited our options regarding the Lower Churchill project.

We are confident a viable deal remains to be done. While the project would likely be reduced in scope, is there anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador, the country, or indeed North America, who would argue that the generation of a much needed renewable, green power source and the creation of jobs is not something we should aim to achieve?

We cannot and will not negotiate this or any deal in public, but rest assured, once a deal is reached the public will be well informed about it.

Media contact: Gary Callahan, (709) 729-4890.

2000 11 10 1:10 p.m.

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