Is There a Boom in Alice Arm's Future?

Posted by Daniel on Jan 8, 2013

Alice Arm is in the news again.

Krishnan Suthanthiran, an American entrepreneur who owns the townsite of Kitsault at the head of the Arm, is reportedly planning to built a liquefied natural gas facility there. Suthanthiran, who made his fortune in medical devices, purchased the townsite in 2005 for $5.7 million. Initially he hoped to develop it as an eco-resort but it appears he has caught the LNG bug which seems to be sweeping the coast.

For such a remote spot, Alice Arm has a complicated history. Located at the top of Observatory Inlet north of Prince Rupert almost at the BC-Alaska border, it lies in the territory of the Nisga'a people, who know it as Ts'im Gits'oohl ("inside, in behind"). The Arm is named for Alice Mary Woods, wife of the Anglican missionary Robert Tomlinson, who served alongside her husband at various missions on the north coast 1868-1933.

A tiny community sprang to life at the head of the Arm in 1916 with the opening of the Dolly Varden silver mine further up the Kitsault River. The mine only lasted for a brief period though a few people hung on, prospecting and living off the land. Today it is largely abandoned.

Across the Arm to the east Kitsault became the service centre for a molybdenum mining operation that began in the late 1960s. For a time the community had a hospital, a theatre and a peak population of several hundred. But the boom ended with the closure of the mine in 1982 (though a company called Avanti Mining has plans to reopen the mine).

Enter Mr. Suthanthiran, the millionaire who obviously likes to dream large. His multi-billion dollar project calls for yet more pipelines to bring natural gas and perhaps oil from Alberta and BC's northeast for export to Asian markets.

Who knows, perhaps Kitsault and Alice Arm are on the verge of yet another resource boom almost 100 years since the first one. Meanwhile here is a magazine article which gives a first-hand description of the area.