For Sale: One Coal Terminal. Great Ocean View
Trent Ernst, Editor
The federal government has put Crown-owned Ridley Terminals on the block. Ridley Terminal in Prince Rupert is where coal mined in Tumbler Ridge goes to before getting shipped overseas, typically to China.
The terminal is owned by the federal government, but is being put on the block after a review of corporate assets.
Minister of State Ted Menzies says that the terminals have played a key role in the development of the mining sector in Western Canada and is an important component in Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway. However, Ridley Terminals is the only major marine terminal still owned and operated by the federal government. “Ridley Terminals has tremendous growth potential and that potential can best be realized through private ownership,” says Menzies. “This decision is consistent with good governance and our commitment to responsible and efficient use of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars.”
In 2006, the Liberal Government was planning on selling the terminals to an Ontario mining company, but one of Stephen Harper’s first acts when he came to power was to kybosh that plan. At the time, the terminal was losing money, to the tune of a half a million dollars a month. Now, however, the terminal is breaking records in revenue, profits and volume.
Peace River MP Bob Zimmer says “This decision is yet another example of our Government’s commitment to using taxpayers’ dollars responsibly and efficiently and is consistent with our ongoing asset management review goals. By moving away from public ownership, Ridley Terminals would align with other major marine terminals in Canada, which are owned and operated by the private sector.”
However, NDP MP for the Skeena-Bulkley Valley Nathan Cullen says the reasons are much more simple.
“They’re broke.” The Conservatives, says Cullen have earned themselves the deep distrust of most Canadians over their handling of the Nexen deal, which was sold to a state-owned Chinese firm. “Now they’re peddling another major Canadian asset without due process,” Cullen writes in a release. “A decision of this magnitude that so fundamentally affects the northwest and all of Western Canada should first go to the people for consultation and then on to Parliament for honest debate.”
But Minister Menzies says that controlling interest in Ridley Terminals will not be sold to a state-owned company outside of Canada.
The minister says the sale will be handled by the Canadian Development Investment Corporation to ensure that Canadian taxpayers get maximum value, and that any buyer continues to operate Ridley on an open-access, commercial basis.
In 2009, a consortium of coal companies in BC and Alberta proposed taking over Ridley Terminal, including First Coal, Western, Peace River Coal, Grande Cache Coal, Teck Coal, Coal Valley Resources, Suncor and Canfor’s Houston Pellet Plant.
The terminal was built at a cost of $250 million as part of the Northeast Coal Development, the mega-project that created Tumbler Ridge. The Crown Corporation was established in 1984.
With a number of new mines expected to come onstream in the next few years, including Quintette and HD Mining’s Murray River Project (which would single-handedly more than double production in the Tumbler Ridge area), shipments from the terminal should increase dramatically.
The Terminal has an annual capacity of 12 million tonnes, but the plan is to double that over the next few years.