Western Troy Capital Resources of Toronto has announced plans to build small nuclear power generating stations suitable for installation in remote areas. The idea grew from the company's options for providing electricity to its flagship project.
CEO Rex Loesby said in a news release, "As we worked through the feasibility process for our MacLeod Lake project, we evaluated a number of electric power options. One option is a small nuclear reactor. We found there are a number of small reactor designs in operation and under development around the world, and there looks to be an opportunity to work with one or more of these reactor designs to develop the technology specifically for remote communities and mine sites in Canada."
That's an idea I have not heard before. We bet it will raise all kinds of objections from environmental and anti-mining activists. But could it be an safe, cost-effective option?
"Some of these small reactor designs have operated for decades without safety issues, nuclear reactors do not release carbon emissions," Loesby continued, "and there are communities and mines in remote locations throughout Canada that would benefit greatly from clean, safe, and relatively low-cost electric power."
Western Troy owns 100% of the MacLeod Lake copper-molybdenum property 275 km north of Chibougamau, QC. Exploration has reached the advanced stage. A 2008 scoping study put indicated resources at 18.2 million tonnes averaging 0.60% Cu, 0.094% Mo, 0.06 g/t Au and 4.5 g/t Ag. The inferred resource is 1.9 million tonnes at 0.35% Cu, 0.078% Mo, 0.04 g/t Au and 3.6 g/t Ag. Contained metal might be as much as 217 million lb of copper, 32 million lb of moly, 7,000 oz of gold and 800,000 oz of silver.
The same study put the estimated pre-production capital cost at $210 million: $25 million for the mine; $66 million for the mill and facilities; $14 million for an access road; $9 million for a power line; $54 million for engineering and construction management; and $42 million for a 25% contingency fund.
The company's latest news release made no mention of what costs might be associated with a small nuclear generating station. Would building it be less than the $9 million cost to run a power line to the site? Would operating it be cheaper than purchasing electricity from Hydro-Québec? Would it produce enough power so that some of it might be sold to local communities? Would selling part of the output make it cost-effective for Western Troy?
The proposal raises more questions than it has answers. The decision to proceed will depend on finding suitable reactor technology, the applicable government(s) regulations, and the availability of venture funding.
Nonetheless, it is an interesting idea. Perhaps it will go nowhere in the next 20 years, but it bears keeping in mind if carbon-free electricity becomes a priority.