Barrick plans Storey County power plant to serve its mines

Barrick Goldstrike plans to build an electric power plant in Storey County to service two major gold mines in Eastern Nevada.

The gas-fired plant would be built near the Sierra Pacific Power station at Tracy, 17 miles east of Reno adjacent to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.

Barrick spokesman Vince Borg at company headquarters in Toronto said the plant will cost "just shy of $100 million" to build. He said it's too early to tell whether Sierra Pacific will be able to use some of the power generated.

According to an application filed with the Public Utilities Commission, the company has been working on a proposal since the energy crunch three years ago.

"Following the 2001 collapse of energy markets in California, Nevada and elsewhere and the associated dramatic increase in electricity prices, Barrick began to evaluate its options to acquire a long term and reliable electrical supply which will provide Barrick with greater ability to manage its electricity service costs," the application states.

Company officials talked with Sierra Pacific about expanding the Tracy power station but were unable to reach an agreement. It was at that point Barrick officials decided to build their own power plant.

With existing electric power and a natural gas line which supplies Tracy both less than a half-mile away, the Storey County site was chosen as the best location.

The application says company officials hope to get all the permits and begin construction this summer and have the plant on-line by mid-2005. That includes PUC approval and environmental permits from the state and a special-use permit from Storey County

While the plant would be in Storey County, the mines that use its power are near Carlin along the Eureka-Elko county line in Eastern Nevada. The power would be transmitted there along Sierra Pacific Power's existing transmission lines.

During construction, there would be up to 350 jobs generated by the project but, once completed, it would be operated by a crew of less than 25, according to the application.

The plant would generate up to 118 megawatts of power from 14 gas-driven generators.

Barrick's application says that would cover "a substantial portion of the electric service needs" at Goldstrike's two mines - the Betze Post open pit and the Meikle underground mine.

Between them, those two mines have already produced more than 25 million ounces of gold. Barrick officials say they have reserves of more than 19 million ounces still in the ground at Carlin.

Contact Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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