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REPORTING · 12th March 2014
Walter McFarlane
Jacynthe Cote was in Kitimat on Tuesday, March 4th to tour the Modernization Project at Rio Tinto Alcan. It was also the first time Media had been permitted behind the fence in two years.

Buildings were going up, construction workers were working hard putting the plant together. Site Manager, Gaby Poirier, who was with Cote, stated construction is going well and they have just put their first pot together out of 384.

Poirier told everyone the plant has stated training the former plant workers into their new equipment. With the ramp up, the closing of the old plant and the transition will go together. Cote commended the work of the operating team who has borrowed people from other plants who are familiar with the new technology.

One of the challenges which the modernization has faced is finding workers.

“The one thing we are facing in this region, is that it’s a very competitive labour market with all of the big projects going on in Alberta. We are currently revisiting the schedule,” said Cote. “We are talking more about commissioning in 2014 and most of the ramp up in 2015. We keep on saying it will be in the first half of 2015. We need to continue reviewing the schedule as it typical in a project of that size but we know the competitive labour market is having a negative impact on the project.”

She said they are working to improve the level of employees. This is why they are bringing the Delta Spirit Lodge. They have lost time due to delays but they hope to make this up during the ramp up. They will not have a precise date until they have reviewed everything.

The Delta Spirit Lodge will bring 400 more beds and will be docked at the Eurocan Terminal. It will stay in town as long as it is needed. They expect the additional workers to come in June and by bringing in the lodge, they will have more workers and have more flexibility on the project.

42% of the current workers on the project are come from Kitimat, Terrace and Kitamaat Village. Cote explained for a project the size of the community, this is good, and to their benefit. She explained while this is the biggest private investment in BC, the LNG’s will be even bigger.

“The capacity and the expertise which is being developed is going to be available for the LNG project. When I think about the future of BC, this is very significant and this is why we need to work hard together to make it a success,” said Cote.

Cote stated the LNG industry has the potential to bring a lot of economic activity. She was happy that they would be able to contribute to it. “This is why I think, as we are building Kitimat, we have been so focused on supporting development of the local capacity. We have a very high proportion of the workforce on site which is coming from the region and I believe that capacity will be absolutely available and there to assist the construction of the LNG projects as we phase out and as they start. I see that as a very good synergy between what we’re doing here and the LNG Project,” said Cote.

One of the goals expressed during the start of the project was the quest for 0 hours lost due to injury. “We are ranking well from a Canadian standard. Typical projects of that size, Canada will rank 4, 4 injuries for 100 employees. We are cruising in the .5, .6 right now. The project is much better,” said Cote.

However, she wanted to be clear. They want to keep the site fatality free, severe injury free and injury free. Cote explained this is the focus every single day, even though they can go 3 years without an injury does not give them a pass for an injury free tomorrow. She keeps her focus on safety on every site she is on so every worker gets back to their family safely.

The Modernization has an incredible health service provider on site complete with Nurse practitioner, first aid attendants and paramedics. They can fill prescriptions and do diagnostic work. RTA is still meeting with Northern Health to talk about issues.