Nfld. & Labrador

Time for a transmission line to Labrador's north coast, says Innu Nation

With the confirmation of the Voisey's Bay mine expansion, the Innu Nation wants to connect the remote area of Labrador to the grid.

6 isolated communities on the north coast currently powered by aging diesel generators

This Nalcor transmission line will soon bring electricity from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland, and the Innu Nation is looking for something similar to extend to Labrador's north coast. (Submitted by Nalcor Energy)

On the heels of the news that the Voisey's Bay mine is moving into expansion mode, the Innu Nation says the time is now to connect the north coast of Labrador to the electrical grid via a transmission line.

"It would change a lot," said Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich.

"It's time Labrador is connected to the outside world."

Rich said the transmission idea has been tossed around internally since October, but Innu officials decided to wait and see what Vale, the mining giant that operates Voisey's Bay, was planning.

When the company announced Monday it would spend $2 billlion on an underground mining expansion, adding 15 more years to the mine, the Innu Nation decided to speak out.

"I think it's a great opportunity for Vale to explore this idea that the Innu Nation is proposing. I don't know why we can't have transmission lines to the north coast. We have them going to Quebec, and we have them going to southern Labrador," said Rich.

The six remote communities on the north coast are currently powered by aging diesel generators, and have been plagued by problems.

"Especially in Natuashish during the winter months, where we have a problem with one of the generators. Homeowners have problems in heating their homes and also powering their homes," said Rich.

Grand Chief Gregory Rich points to recent federal funding to get Indigenous communities in Ontario on the grid as precedent for the Innu Nation's request. (Kate Adach/CBC )

Getting Nalcor, feds on board

With no firm idea of how to fund such a project, the Innu Nation hopes to gather all stakeholders together — not just themselves and Vale — but also the Nunatsiavut Government, Nalcor and the federal government.

Rich pointed to the federal government's announcement in March that it would commit $1.2 billion to connect 16 First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario to the electrical grid as precedent for the Innu Nation's plan.

"I don't know why the federal government would disregard this," he said.

Additionally, Rich said he's already met with Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall about the idea, as recently as last week.

It's time Labrador is connected to the outside world.- Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich 

"We've brought this up before. Now, we're seriously talking about connecting to the grid from the north coast," he said.

While discussion is in its infancy, items such as a potential budget or environmental impacts haven't been fully detailed. But Rich said staying with diesel has clear environmental downsides.

"We at the Innu Nation are concerned about the [greenhouse gases]. We too on the northern coast of Labrador need to play a part in reducing [greenhouse] gas emissions."

Rich said Innu Nation officials are planning further meetings on a transmission line during next week's Expo Labrador in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

With files from Labrador Morning