Editor’s Note: Doing Business is a digest of news and development in the engineering, geology and geophysics business worlds. Names of permit holders and companies closely affiliated with permit holders appear in bold type, and so do member names.

Syncrude Sands Yield More Than Oil

Titanium Corporation Inc. has opened a $5-million test plant in Regina to receive high-grade titanium-bearing minerals and zircon concentrates from oilsands tailings generated at Syncrude Canada’s Fort McMurray operations. Test batches of up to five tonnes an hour will be processed.

Titanium Corporation notes that titanium and zircon are worth $12 billion annually in global production. It is estimated that Syncrude’s operations potentially could meet eight per cent of the yearly worldwide demand for titanium, and five per cent for zircon.

360networks Answers Bell Canada’s Call

Bell Canada has substantially increased its Western Canadian presence by purchasing 360networks’ Canadian assets. The acquisition doubles to 1,200 Bell West’s employees. Originally an offshoot of the Leduc-based Ledcor construction group, 360networks owns fibre optics and broadband services linked to more than 200 office buildings in Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver. The acquisitions include those of 360networks’subsidiary GT Group Telecom Services Corp.

Bell said most of the newly acquired assets outside Western Canada will be sold.

BHP Billiton Buys Into Shear Minerals

Australian multinational BHP Billiton, owner of the Ekati diamond mine, has exercised a year-old option and is investing $1 million in Edmonton-based Shear Minerals Ltd., which focuses on diamond exploration in the North.

On a private placement basis, BHP will purchase 1,037,014 units at a price of $0.96 per unit. According to a statement issued by Shear Minerals President and CEO Pamela Strand, P.Geol., each unit consists of one common share of Shear and one non-transferable share purchase warrant exercisable within one year at an exercise price of $1.21.

In another development, BHP announced that, along with Diamonds North Resources Ltd., it is merging lands held in the region of the town of Kugaaruk in eastern Nunavut. The area comprises land fully owned by Diamonds North, including the 418,000-acre Amaruk project, more than 3.0 million acres held jointly by Diamonds North and BHP, and about 3.5 million acres of land held by BHP.

Alberta Electric System Set
To Line Up More Transmission

Alberta Electric System Operator wants to build a new 330-kilometre electrical transmission line from Genesee near Edmonton to the Langdon substation near Calgary.

This $300-million link, following a new corridor (separate from the current six Edmonton-Calgary routes), is among several AESO proposals amounting to the first major upgrades to the Alberta transmission system since the 1980s.

Other improvements, also subject to Alberta Energy Utilities Board approval, include a 240-kilovolt Pincher Creek-Lethbridge line; a $40-million initiative to raise to 500 kilovolts (from 240 kilovolts) the existing Keephills-Genesee link; and $80 million in enhancements to lines serving burgeoning wind and small-hydro projects in southwest Alberta.

Northern Diamond-Cutting
Losing Some of Its Sheen

Two Yellowknife-based diamond-cutting companies, Sirius Diamonds Ltd. and Arslanian Cutting Works (NWT) Ltd., were placed in court-ordered interim receivership at the request of the Northwest Territories government. The government was the guarantor of loans to the firms, which the Royal Bank says are in default.

However, the territorial government was expected to make a decision after The PEGG’s deadline that would take Arslanian out of receivership, Finance Minister Floyd Roland said in published reports.

The receiverships follows recent release of an industry study that cast doubts on the value of fostering a diamond-cutting and polishing industry in Canada’s North.

With aid of subsidies, the Northwest Territories government has encouraged the industry. However, the report, sponsored by the N.W.T. and Nunavut chambers of mines, the Mining Association of Canada, and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, maintains that secondary diamond processing in the North amounts to a money-losing proposition. Rather than northerners, for the most part foreigners have landed jobs as a result of the policy.

N.W.T. Resources Minister Brendan Bell rejected claims that current policies were jeopardizing the industry. He conceded that while most cutters and polishers currently are foreigners, it’s hoped they will pass along skills to locals.

De Beers Ready To Snap Into Action
On New N.W.T. Mine

De Beers Canada has received the green light from federal regulators to proceed with its proposed Snap Lake diamond mine, 220 km northwest of Yellowknife. Construction of the $490-million underground diamond mine – De Beers’ first in Canada – will hit full stride next year and lead to production late in 2007.

The diamond producer recently signed three agreements with the N.W.T government and aboriginal groups opening the way for Snap Lake to proceed. The accords, covering environmental, socio-economic and secondary diamonds industries, also provide for formation of an environmental monitoring agency to oversee the project.

Chevron Texaco Sells Western Canada Assets

Chevron Texaco’s North America Exploration and Production Co. has divested itself of 13 producing fields in Western Canada through sales to Acclaim Energy Trust and Enerplus Resources Fund for a combined price of more than $1.1 billion. Affected are oil and gas producing properties in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba

The repositioning won’t affect other strategically significant Chevron Texaco Canadian assets, including the Athabasca Oil Sands Project; Mackenzie Delta gas; Canadian east coast exploration, development and production activities; or refining and marketing.

That divestiture was preceded by Chevron Canada Resources selling its processing arm, EnerPro Midstream Co., to KeySpan Facilities Income Fund for $190 million. Involved are five Drayton Valley gas plants, one at Rimbey and another at Chinchaga, as well as gas-liquid extraction plants at Rimbey and Fort Saskatchewan.

Stantec Acquires GBR in Winnipeg

GBR Architects of Winnipeg has been added to Stantec’s already lengthy list of acquisitions.

The 62-year-old Manitoba firm provides a full range of architectural services and has 35 employees. According to Stantec President and CEO Tony Franceschini, P.Eng.: "This strategic acquisition increases our service offering to clients in Manitoba and gives our architecture and interior design group a presence in every province in Western Canada."

BA Energy Says ‘Yea’ To Heartland Upgrader

Work could be underway within a year on the first stage of the Heartland Upgrader proposed for Fort Saskatchewan by BA Energy Inc.

A submission to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board calls for incremental increases in production, starting at 75,000 bbd of bitumen, with plans to eventually aim for 226,000 bbd.

BA Managing Director Ray Cej, P.Eng., places at $1.8-billion the overall cost of the project, slated to proceed in phases until 2011.

Mine Reopening Gives Grande Cache Lift

Good news keeps drifting in from Alberta’s coal industry. A report says that a initial public share offering by Grande Cache Coal Corp. has raised $57.2 million.
It will allow the company to proceed with plans to open leases acquired from Smoke River Coal, which closed its Cache Creek operations in 2000, leading to the loss of 400 jobs.

Grande Cache Coal has hired North American Enterprises Ltd., a subsidiary of North American Energy Partners Inc., to construct the access road and portal development at the No. 7-4 underground mine, mining services at the No. 12 South B2 surface mine and coal haulage to the processing plant from both of these mines. Mining is expected to resume by year’s end.

More Foreign Help On Way to Oilsands

The prospect of future skills shortages holding up oilsands projects may have become less likely, following the signing of a federal-Alberta agreement on foreign recruitment.

The pact allows oilsands employers to obtain permission to hire workers from outside Canada as much as a year prior to project start-up. That would relieve employers of current requirements linking the hiring permission to delays, pending deadlines and cost over-runs.

The accord also would be less restrictive by allowing workers to be hired for the duration of the project rather than for 12-months, the current limit. Employers will still be obligated to show they’re making efforts to hire and train Canadian, including aboriginal, workers.

Alberta Packing More Power

After facing the prospect of an electricity squeeze only a few years ago, industry experts say Alberta has a fairly healthy production, thanks to recent additions of generating capacity.

The difference between available supply and demand is in the 20-to-30-per-cent range, a figure which could rise to as much as 40 per cent when EPCOR’s 450-megawatt Genesee expansion comes on stream later this year, says Duane Reid-Carlson, P.Eng., of EDC Associates Ltd. in Calgary.

However, Evan Bahry, executive director of the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta, cautions that some power sources, such as wind, are only available at certain times and should not be considered part of the surplus.

Dow Deal Gives Kuwait Alberta Presence

A Kuwaiti presence has been added to Alberta’s petrochemical sector through Petrochemical Industries Co. and Dow Chemicals, forming a 50/50 global joint venture for manufacturing and marketing of monoethylene glycol and diethylene glycol.

The arrangement gives PIC, a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corp., a 50-per-cent interest in Alberta plants owned by Dow at Fort Saskatchewan and Prentiss, near Red Deer.

The affected plants will operate under the MEGlobal joint venture, which also markets U.S. and European production.

Prima Purchase Gives Petro-Canada Rockies Foothold

Petro-Canada has made a significant foray into the U.S. by purchasing Prima Energy Corp. for $719 million.

With the acquisition, Petro-Canada gains assets that the Denver-base independent holds in the Rocky Mountain region, as well as access to Prima’s expertise in coalbed methane production.

“The human assets are as an important part of this transaction as the physical assets,” explained Petrocan Senior Vice President Kathy Sendall, P.Eng.

EUB Eases Up On Shut-in-Gas Ruling

The Alberta Energy Unities Board has reduced the amount of gas ordered shut in within the Wabiskaw-McMurray area in order to protect future oilsands production dependent on steam-assisted gravity drainage.

The latest ruling amends a 2003 EUB shut-in order that would have affected production equivalent to two per cent of Alberta’s gas output.

Under the revised ruling, slightly less than one per cent of provincial gas production would be affected by the shut-in order.

Fortuna Energy Makes Pitch For Alaska Leases

Fortuna Energy Inc. was the highest bidder for a single tract among 1.4 million acres being offered for development within National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The subsidiary of Talisman Energy Inc. of Calgary offered $13.7 million for a single tract as part of a bidding process for 123 tracts of Alaska’s North Slope being handled through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Petro-Canada Alaska Inc. also participated in the bidding, results of which are expected this fall.

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