The Town of Cochrane is embarking on a $1.4-million multimodal transportation project that will make it a hub for industry transportation services in the North.
Initially, the Cochrane Intermodal Terminal, currently being constructed at the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) yard in Cochrane, will provide hauling services to Detour Gold, but future plans have the town tapping into forestry and agriculture as well.
J.P. Ouellette, CAO of the Town of Cochrane, said the benefits for the town are innumerable.
“It’s helpful for local industry, it supports the ONTC and rail jobs, it’s a better end use for transportation, reducing greenhouse gases, and it’s less traffic for our roads,” he said. “So, it’s win-win all around, and we’re quite pleased and excited about the whole idea and the opportunity.”
The concept for a multimodal transportation hub originated a few years ago with Detour Gold while the company was constructing its Detour Lake gold mine.
“They had identified a plan and a need to create a multimodal yard at the ONTC yard here, because they anticipated a lot of their supplies to keep the mine operational would be coming in by rail,” Ouellette said. “And so they had drafted a conceptual layout.”
The idea was scrapped when the plan was found to be too expensive, but it remained in the back of Ouellette’s mind.
“It got shelved, but it didn’t do away with the need, because the need was always there,” Ouellette said. “So we kept talking with (Detour Gold) about what was the low-hanging fruit and what might be useful to their operations.”
In particular, Ouellette said, Detour needed an easier way to haul in supplies, such as fuel for their trucks and grinding media for their ore mills. Currently, up to four tanker trucks a day, carrying roughly 55 million litres of fuel, are making their way to the mine.
With the new terminal, supplies will arrive at the Cochrane terminal via rail and be transferred to trucks, which will then take the supplies the rest of the way.
Ouellette said in addition to the benefit to industry, using rail will reduce traffic and wear and tear on Cochrane’s roads and provide some peace of mind and protection around Lake Commando, part of the town’s water supply.
The new terminal will help preserve jobs with the ONTC, which employs roughly 120 people locally, and there will also be some job creation associated with the new terminal.
“We’re creating about six new jobs for hauling from Cochrane to the mine site, with the goods stopping here now,” Ouellette said.
In mid-November, site prep was underway and expected to continue through the winter months. Equipment, such as large concrete hoppers, a magnet crane, and other transloading apparatus, was on order for installation on site.
In the meantime, Ouellette said the town is in discussions with proponents in the forestry and agriculture industries to pinpoint how they can also benefit from using the terminal.
Tembec and Rockshield Engineered Wood Products have both expressed interest in using rail to bring wood to their facilities. Rockshield, which has been operational for just over a year and employs 120 people, is looking to expand.
“That’s creating local employment, and anything we can do to help that company and the forestry industry, we’re certainly interested,” Ouellette said.
Agriculture, too, can benefit from the terminal, as the surge in farming in the Claybelt area continues, he added. Ouellette has been connecting with local farmers who are in need of storage and handling capabilities for their cash crops.
“So, again, at or near the ONTC yard, we’re looking to create an elevator system where crops can be stored there, dried, and shipped by rail as well,” he said. “We’re in discussions with area farmers around a type of this system and partnership that would see this created as well.”
With the nearest similar system located in the Earlton-New Liskeard area, Ouellette believes the Cochrane terminal could become a hub for area farmers.
To meet the $1.4-million price tag, the town received $715,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. (NOHFC) and another $500,000 from FedNor. The town is contributing the remaining $215,000, but will get it back through terminal-leasing revenue.
“Once we’re operational, (the terminal) will be leased back to Detour, and so the taxpayers aren’t out,” Ouellette said. “That lease revenue will offset the capital the town’s put forward, and we’ll be in good shape.”
The deadline for the project’s completion is March 31, 2017.