December 4-11, 2006

Epcor, BC govt honoured as partners in Britannia mine cleanup

The Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships (CCP3) recently presented Epcor and the British Columbia government its Gold Award for Infrastructure in recognition of the Britannia Mine water treatment plant. The Council honoured the project as an innovative partnership that is ending a century of heavy metal pollution in Howe Sound.

Located on BC's Sea-to-Sky Highway, this plant is capturing and removing thousands of tonnes of heavy metal contaminants from the historic Britannia Mine, including 166,000 kilograms of copper per year - the equivalent of 70 million pennies.

"The project team amply demonstrated the value of public-private partnerships by delivering this facility on time and on budget, helping protect taxpayers from cost increases so common in today's business environment," noted BC Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell.

"This award recognizes Epcor's ability to work effectively with both public and private sector partners to develop solutions that are cost-effective, and benefit communities and the environment," Dr Stephen Stanley, Epcor senior vice-president commented.

Epcor financed the facility and led an expert team during the design and construction of the $15.5-million facility, whose net value now stands at $27.2 million. This team included Lockerbie Stanley, Stantec Consulting, Canadian Environmental and Metallurgical, and BioteQ.

Accountability was a central component of the partnership. During design and construction, Epcor and its partners assumed the risks for cost overruns, schedule delays and costs related to water treatment technology and plant operation. Epcor faced penalties if the plant was not built or operational on time.

The public-private partnership agreement also provided for performance-based payments to Epcor based on the volume of water processed and the plant's compliance with environmental regulations. These payments did not begin until the plant was in operation. As part of the agreement, Epcor will operate the facility for 20 years. Over the contract period, this project is expected to save the province and its residents more than $10 million had the facility been built by the government alone.

At the Britannia Mine water treatment plant, Epcor is using a high-density sludge lime process to capture and precipitate heavy metals, including aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc, from the mine water in a chemically stable form. During the treatment process, the acidity of the mine water is neutralized. A micro-turbine driven by the mine's continual run-off will generate electricity for the plant, enhancing the project's overall level of sustainability and protecting the province from future energy cost increases.

The CCP3 has previously recognized Epcor for its partnership arrangements with local governments: the company received an award of merit and a service delivery award for its work with the community of Port Hardy, as well as a service delivery award for its partnership with the town of Canmore, Alberta. Epcor also has P3 agreements with the district of Sooke, BC and with the Alberta communities of Red Deer County, Okotoks ahd Chestermere.

Projects completed during 2006 have included:

- a wastewater treatment and collection system for the district of Sooke, which initially faced a $27-million capital and operating expenditure. Epcor proposed a $17-million alternative options. Sooke used some of the resulting savings to expand the project's design capacity.

- a tertiary wastewater treatment plant for Okotoks that yielded capital savings of more than $10 million compared to a traditional delivery approach.

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