Brad Mapes, the Hay River businessman behind the new AWP Industrial Park in Enterprise, stands in one of the rail sidings installed in 2019.
NNSL file photo

The start of a transloading operation – the first section of an industrial park under development on the north side of Enterprise – has been delayed by Covid-19.

The transloading facility – called Aurora Logistics – had been set to begin operation on April 1 at the AWP Industrial Park, but that has now been delayed to July 1, tentatively.

Brad Mapes, the Hay River businessman who has been working to develop the site for about 10 years, explained the delay is because of safety concerns due to the Covid-19 crisis, plus its impact on the delivery of some supplies.

“Parkland (Fuel Corporation) is a great partner of ours at the site and we want to just ensure that the number one thing we were looking at is making sure that we are a safe environment to work around,” said Mapes told The Hub on April 16. “We’ve developed some policies that we could work at the site and ensure the safety of our people and whoever comes to the site. But I think the idea of waiting till a few more months is probably a good business decision to ensure everything is in the correct working conditions in a safety sense.”

Under a long-term agreement with Mapes, Parkland Fuel Corporation of Alberta will operate the transloading services, which will begin with fuel. Delivered from the south via the CN rail line, the fuel will be offloaded into trucks by Hay River’s Bassett Petroleum for delivery further north.

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, work at the site has basically stopped, although Mapes noted it is also a slow time for work because of the spring thaw.

“It’s kind of that time of the year where we’re waiting for it to melt and dry up,” he said. “So we would have been kind of stalled anyways at this time period. But we’re definitely (within) the Covid timeframe, and I don’t want to take a wild guess and say when we would be up to speed again. What I can say is that, as soon as it’s safe and workable for our project to get going again, we’ll be getting going.”

Mapes, a former mayor of Hay River, stressed he is still committed to the project, explaining it is now more important than ever for the North.

“This project meant a lot to the North prior to Covid, but now with Covid happening we need to get over Covid and make sure that our people are safe, but we also have a big concern that we need to be able to jumpstart the economy,” he said. “And I’m a huge believer that the Aurora Wood Pellets project out at the site with all we are proposing to do is going to be a great way to jumpstart the economy.”

Mapes said the delay may impact other aspects of the industrial park, including a planned biomass facility to generate power.

“The issue we’re going to have with the biomass side of our project is that the window of build time in the summer is so small and we’ll probably run out of time,” he said, adding that, after 10 years working to develop the project, he has learned a lot of patience.

The AWP Industrial Park — with the AWP standing for Aurora Wood Pellets — sits on 790 acres of land about four kilometres north of the residential area of Enterprise.

When everything is developed on the site, there will probably be eight separate corporations – the logistics operation, a wood pellet mill, a sawmill, greenhouses, a biomass operation and other initiatives.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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