A massive industrial park under development on the north side of Enterprise has passed a significant milestone.
In mid-July, the first transhipment took place at Aurora Logistics, one of the aspects of the industrial park, when railcars full of calcium chloride arrived and the commodity was loaded onto trucks to be carried elsewhere in the NWT.
That marked the first time any aspect of the industrial park became operational.
“It was a lot of pride in the fact to see a railcar coming onto our site, because it took 10 years to get to that point,” said Brad Mapes, the Hay River businessman who is developing the industrial park. “It was an emotional time to see it come onto the site. Basically, I’m someone that looks forward to the future and from that point on I could see what our site could bring to the North. It was exciting.”
As of Aug. 7, about 60 railcars – all carrying calcium chloride – have been unloaded at the site for Tiger Calcium, the company supplying the product to the GNWT for dust control on roads.
“It’s not full tilt, but it’s operational,” Mapes said of Aurora Logistics.
Calcium chloride is just the first of many commodities that Mapes expects to move through Aurora Logistics, the most notable being fuel.
The concept of the logistics operation is that it would be cheaper for commodities to be carried north by rail and transloaded onto trucks by Aurora Logistics.
Plus, it would be better for the environment and take transport trucks of the highway system, at least as far north as Enterprise.
Mapes anticipates that transloading of fuel will begin in the last quarter of 2020.
It had been hoped that transloading of fuel could begin on July 1 of this year, but that was delayed by several months awaiting renewal of a business licence from the Hamlet of Enterprise. That approval has now been received.
Under a long-term agreement with Mapes, Parkland Fuel Corporation of Alberta will operate the transloading services for fuel. Hay River’s Bassett Petroleum will handle offloading the fuel into trucks of various companies.
The 320-hectare site of the AWP Industrial Park, with the AWP standing for Aurora Wood Pellets, is still under development.
Work on the site has been slowed this year by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A lot of projects have been stopped because of Covid,” said Mapes. “Our project is still moving forward. And with no government funding.”
As of this month, he estimated that well over $12 million has been invested into the site.
“And by the end of the year we’ll probably be hovering around $16 million,” he said. “We would have been a hell of a lot more than that if it wasn’t for Covid. Like everybody else, Covid has created a lot of issues with delays on equipment, and we’ve had to stall various parts.”
Currently, about six people are working at the site.
Work will begin next year on a pellet mill, said Mapes. “Next summer I’m 100 per cent sure that we’ll have that part of the operations moving forward with the build.”
When everything is developed on the site, there will probably be nine separate corporations – the logistics operation, the wood pellet mill, a sawmill, greenhouses, a biomass operation, an aggregate operation and other initiatives.
There’s still a lot of work to be done on the site, said Mapes, a former mayor of Hay River. “But it’s moving forward.”
The project is owned by Mapes and his wife, Colette, except for a five per cent stake held by Joe Handley, a former premier of the NWT.