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.
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.
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
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.
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
BA Managing Director Ray Cej, P.Eng., places at $1.8-billion
the overall cost of the project, slated to proceed in phases
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.
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
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
A Kuwaiti presence has been added to Alberta’s petrochemical
sector through Petrochemical Industries Co. and Dow
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.
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
“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
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
Under the revised ruling, slightly less than one per cent
of provincial gas production would be affected by the shut-in
Makes Pitch For
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.