Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2006
VANCOUVER (CP) - The federal government has cancelled the sale of the Ridley Island shipping terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C., to an Ontario company.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced at a caucus meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday that he had signed the papers cancelling the deal with Fortune Minerals Ltd. of London, Ont. The Ridley terminal, built in the 1980s, is an ice-free, deepwater harbour.
It was originally built as a Crown facility by the federal government at a cost to taxpayers of $250 million to load and ship coal from the Quintette and Bullmoose mines at Tumbler Ridge in northeast B.C.
The other strategic reason for its importance is that it is the western terminus for the CN Railway and the closest port in North America to Asia.
Over the last several years, with coal prices in the dumps and Quintette and Bullmoose shut down, the future of Ridley looked bleak.
The previous Liberal government said it wanted to sell the property because it said it was costing taxpayers $500,000 a month in subsidies to operate.
But the future of coal has recently brightened, especially due to China’s booming economy, which caused other companies to show an interest in the way the terminal is operated.
New coal mines are being developed in B.C. and Alberta and Ridley management estimates that coal shipments will increase dramatically over the next several years.
Last year, only 1.3 million tonnes of coal was shipped and the terminal’s capacity is 16 million tonnes.
A group calling itself the Ridley Shippers Coalition and consisting of about five shippers want to run the terminal as a non-profit co-operative. Fortune wanted to run it as a for-profit venture.
Â© The Canadian Press 2006