Wind farms are standing in the way of millions of dollars in untapped exploration revenues in resource-rich New Brunswick, according to the province’s mineral exploration and development industry.
The New Brunswick Prospectors and Developers Association is urging the province to reconsider the creation of any further large-scale wind farms in the province, charging that once lucrative lands are quickly becoming no-go zones for exploration projects.
“Don’t kill exploration just to be able to say we’re green,” said Earnest Brooks, a geoscientist and spokesman for the association.
“When you place windmills, keep in mind that they only provide limited jobs and few spinoffs, whereas exploration and mining dollars can create many jobs, many spinoffs and millions of dollars in revenue.
“In exploration, the same area may be investigated by several successive companies with the Crown retaining the minerals and collecting revenues.”
In 2010, mineral companies spent more than three times what they did in 2009 on exploration in New Brunswick – some $27.6 million versus $8.1 million.
Premier David Alward stated in his first state of the province address delivered last month that over the last decade, companies exploring for natural gas and oil have invested $350 million in the province.
It is expected another $200 million will be invested over the next three years, according to Alward.
“The best way to explain exploration dollars is to compare Crown land to a parking space: each motorist pays the meter for the space and generates revenue while the owner retains ownership,” Brooks said.
The prospectors and developers association has filed a brief outlining its concerns to New Brunswick’s energy commission.
Commission co-chairmen Jeannot Volpé and Bill Thompson launched a public consultation process last week in efforts to engage the public in developing a 10-year provincial energy plan.
The consultation tour resumes today in Tracadie-Sheila.
The association contests that new wind farm projects have already affected exploration projects, as the northern Caribou Wind Park overlaps with further potential deposits in the Bathurst Mining Camp.
The Bathurst Mining Camp is 70 kilometres in diameter, or roughly 75,000 hectares, and has produced eight mines.
Brooks said airborne surveys can no longer be completed by helicopters at a necessary height due to the wind mills. Electromagnetic surveys also cannot be conducted with underground power lines skewing results.
“There is basically a ‘do not enter’ area on the map,” he said. “This is one of the largest base metal camps in the world.
“To cover this in wind mills and high tensile cables running from one mill to another is ridiculous.”
Brooks said the province needs to keep in mind that the emergence of new technologies of extraction, changes in demand for certain minerals, or the emergence of new minerals can prove profitable for the province, but only if prospectors have access to the resource.
“In order to entice companies to our province you must provide that there are areas open for exploration,” he said.
The province’s Crown lease with the Caribou Wind Park covers the 35 hectares of highland terrain needed to develop the 99-megawatt wind farm south of Campbellton.
The 20-year lease will generate more than $7 million in revenue for the province.
Since 2007, more than two dozen licences covering more than 130,000 hectares of Crown land have been granted for wind power exploration in the province.
The non-profit prospectors and developers association is financed by its membership of geoscientists, prospectors, and mining companies in New Brunswick, and is part of a nationwide body.
“Mineral and hydrocarbon exploration and mining is expanding with new developments in the Sussex and Bathurst areas with reliable and regular revenues from some of these ventures being possibly available in two to three years,” Brooks said. “There will be other opportunities elsewhere.”
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