Conifex Timber Inc. has turned to the court to overturn a provincial government moratorium on any new cryptocurrency mines in B.C.

The company filed a petition and a notice of claim in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on April 12 seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision and an order requiring BC Hydro to supply power to projects it has planned for Salmon Valley near Prince George and Ashton Creek southeast of Salmon Arm.

Although better known as a sawmiller, for years Conifex has generated power at its bio-energy plant in Mackenzie and sold it to BC Hydro. By November 2021 a small-scale “high-performance computing” data centre was up and running in the community 186 kilometres north of Prince George, pursuant to an amended energy supply agreement with the Crown corporation.

But two larger-scale projects planned for Salmon Valley and Ashton Creek were paused when in December 2022 when the government imposed an 18-month moratorium on any new ventures via an order in council (OIC).

Both require 150 megawatts of power and the Salmon Valley project was to be located directly adjacent to a Hydro facility in the area and the Ashton Creek site within a few kilometres of another facility in that area, both selected in collaboration with the Crown corporation. (A plan to increase capacity of the Mackenzie site to 25 megawatts from three is unaffected).

Conifex has provided $252,000 to Hydro in deposits and fees for studies for the two projects, according to the petition.

In part, Conifex claims the order in council exceeds the powers granted to provincial cabinet under the Utilities Commission Act. The company also claims the order breaches the province’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act because the centres are being developed in partnership with the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation. 

All the projects are being developed “initially for the purpose of mining cryptocurrency.” 

“The OIC has not only harmed Conifex’s business prospects, but limits opportunities for British Columbians to participate in emerging new technologies that create employment and economic opportunity in hard hit resource dependent communities,” Conifex CEO Ken Shields said in a release.

Hydro is named as the defendant in the notice of claim and the provincial cabinet and B.C. Attorney General are named as respondents in the petition.

None of the allegations have been tested in court and responses to the claim and the petition have not yet been filed.

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