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Rio Tinto and First Nations partners celebrate the launch of the tl’ughus tunnel boring machine

Press Release

KEMANO, BC, Oct. 22, 2018  – Rio Tinto, together with the Cheslatta Carrier and Haisla First Nations, today celebrated the launch of the tl’ughus tunnel boring machine, a key milestone towards completing the Kemano Second Tunnel project.

The 1 300 tonne machine was named by the Cheslatta Carrier nation after a legendary giant monster snake and is decorated with artwork by Haisla Nations students.

It will dig 7.6 kilometres of tunnel through a mountain as part of a CAD $600 million project to enhance the long-term security of a clean power supply for the BC Works aluminium smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia.

Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Altantic Operations Gervais Jacques said “Launching the tl’ughus in partnership with the Cheslatta Carrier and Haisla Nations is an important milestone for our world class aluminium operations in British Columbia. Our smelter in Kitimat produces some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium and this project will enhance the long-term security of its supply of clean, renewable hydropower.”

BC Works general manager Gareth Manderson said “We want to thank all of our partners who are supporting this important project – from our employees, to contractors, First Nations, government and community members. It will ensure our operations continue to make a significant contribution to British Columbia’s economy into the future.”

Notes to editors

The legend of tl’ughus
Variations of the legend of “tl’ughus” are shared across Carrier communities across the region and the Haisla Nation also share a similar belief. According to the legend, the mountains and landscape around the Nechako Reservoir were once home to a legendary giant monster snake. The snake, known as “tl’ughus”, travelled from lake to lake by boring through the mountains. The openings created by the snake allowed fish to pass from lakes on one side of the mountain to lakes on the other side. The Cheslatta Nation selected the name for the tunnel boring machine – “tl’ughus” – as it shares many parallels with the Kemano second tunnel project.

Students from the Haisla Community School participated in a contest to design the artwork that decorates the tunnel boring machine. The winning design was created by grade six student Ali-Anna Wilson, who portrays important figures in Haisla tradition including the raven, oolichan and the northern lights.

Project Facts:

  • Construction of the Kemano Second Tunnel project is expected to be complete in 2020
  • It will complete a second tunnel to supply the Kemano Powerhouse with water from the Nachako Reservoir, creating a back up to the original tunnel that was built over 60 years ago
  • Approximately 250,000 m3 of tunnel rock will be excavated by the tl’ughus
  • 8.4 kilometres of an existing portion of the second tunnel (excavated in the 1990s) will be refurbished
  • Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2013 to coincide with the Kitimat Modernisation Project and involved construction of interconnections to the existing portion of the second tunnel
  • The total construction workforce is expected to peak at more than X people


For further information: Media relations: Rio Tinto Canada, Claudine Gagnon, Tel.: +1 514-848-8151, [email protected]; BC Works, Kevin Dobbin, Tel: +1 250 639 5949, [email protected]


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