Coal is a big thing in Chetwynd these days and, if world demand continues, it could get bigger. Of the four largest employment sectors in Chetwynd, Forestry (254 Full-time), Gas (157 Full-time), Mining (327 Full-time), and Service (271 Full-time), mining issues the largest number of pay cheques. Quite astonishing, actually, that an industry so new to the community has already outstripped the other major employers. From the data available, it appears that more than half the mining employees are resident elsewhere – and we understand the economic and social results for Chetwynd.
We who live here know Chetwynd as the Community Carved by Success (as we proclaim on the District vehicles), and so it is. But it is the successes of all those who went before us: the original inhabitants, the early settlers, and all the hard-working citizens since that have made Chetwynd the community we love today.
One of the major contributors to success in any venture is good conversation. Good conversation is much more than talking. It includes listening, clarifying, and evaluating. Last week Chetwynd, in collaboration with Tumbler Ridge, and supported by sponsoring industries, the PRRD, and the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce hosted two days of good conversation at the Coal Conference.
The conversation began with a delegates’ bus tour of Brule Mine in the Sukunka area, one of the coal mines operated by Walter Energy (the second is Willow Creek in the Pine valley). At the mine site delegates were permitted to brave the wind and the temperature (ah, bitter chill it was) to stand on the brink of the pit and marvel at the ability of puny human beings to move the earth. I was also impressed with the size of the mine which I confirmed with the mine manager – 50 hectares “It ends right there.” Not so big and invasive in the great scheme of things. Reclamation is already in progress as the excavation advances.
More conversation happened at the reception in the evening and I noted the range of activity supported by the mining operation: geologists, stationery suppliers, fabricators, safety specialists, government representatives, foresters, educators, transportation contractors, CN, caterers, others, and miners. It soon becomes obvious that we all need each other to survive and prosper and the more we communicate the more effective we become – Which brought the attendance at the conversation to more than 100, most of whom were visitors to Chetwynd. Spinoff value of the conference to Chetwynd approaches $20,000 mainly in revenues to hotels, food service, the very comfortable bus, and fuel purchases.
In the months to come, with new coal ventures being planned for the area, this conversation will have to get very much bigger. We will have to communicate clearly the difficult issues around housing, medical services, camp life, and coal dust. Especially, we will have to share our vision of Chetwynd as a place of enduring beauty. Let’s work, plant, and build to keep it that way.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor