CALGARY, Alberta – Restrictions imposed by British Columbia to combat the spread of COVID-19 infections after the holiday break have disrupted work on the construction sites of a Rio Tinto hydropower project and BC Hydro's Site C dam.
In total, five major industrial projects in remote northwestern Canada have been affected as the provincial government ordered them to stagger the return of their workers after the Christmas holidays last week.
BC Hydro's site C dam, Kemano T2 hydropower project in Rio Tinto, Trans Mountain pipeline extension, TC Energy's Coastal GasLink pipeline and Royal Dutch Shell-led LNG Canada project are mentioned in the order.
The companies have not said how the slow return of employees would affect the eventual completion dates for their projects.
Across the five projects, the number of employees will increase from a baseline of 1,460 to 4,080 in mid-February.
Provincial health official Dr. Bonnie Henry said a rapid return to full operational capability after Christmas would likely "feed and accelerate" the spread of COVID-19 among workers and surrounding communities.
"While these changes will further impact our overall project schedule and costs, we understand the rationale for the order," said David Conway, spokesperson for the C $ 10.7 billion ($ 8.4 billion Site C project). ) on the Peace River, that's all on budget.
Rio Tinto's Kemano T2 project, which will build a second tunnel to provide hydropower to the BC Works aluminum smelter in Kitimat, would normally employ 330 on-site but will be limited to 280 until further notice.
Rio Tinto expects the project to resume operations when it is authorized "to increase the number of on-site workers to operate the tunnel boring machine safely," a company spokesman said.
The Trans Mountain project, owned by the Canadian government, stopped expanding the pipeline in December after multiple safety concerns.
Construction was due to restart Monday, but has still been paused, although Trans Mountain has not said whether the new COVID-19 rules had caused the delay. The 1,150-kilometer pipeline carries crude oil from Alberta via British Columbia to the coast and the order concerns only one labor camp in Valemount.
“We are in the final stages of our restart planning and expect to provide more details on the restart dates in the coming days,” a Trans Mountain spokeswoman said Tuesday.
A spokesperson for LNG Canada said the slower return to work schedule would allow the project to continue with "seasonal" work. Coastal GasLink did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
($ 1 = 1.2736 Canadian dollars) (Reported by Nia Williams; edited by David Gregorio)
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