Meet the Mayor
October 24, 2013
Coal is a big item in our part of the world. The history of coal mining in the North East goes back to the 40s but only in the last 30 years has it been a major industrial player. In the immediate Chetwynd neighbourhood major coal mining activity is even more recent.
Since most coal from our region is used in steel making, demand for coal and interest in mining the black stuff is closely linked to the number of cars we buy, the bridges we build, the chain saws, lawn mowers, and weed cutters stored in our sheds, and structures that use rebar in the building process – among uncountable other artifacts of our society from paperclips to the super-hard high-carbon cutting tools I use on my wood lathe (when I can find time these hectic days to get into my shop).
Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge alternate hosting the annual Coal Forum that recently brought 100+ guests to Tumbler Ridge to tour coal mines and hear updates from five mining companies either in production or in some stage of preparing to produce. The tours this year were less than successful due to no fault of the tour guides or the bus operator. It was simply too wintery with driving snow and cold. We could see almost nothing. Better weather next year.
Walter Energy, an Alabama-based mining company with two mines (Wolverine, Brule) in operation and one (Willow) in a quasi-shut-down state, gave a brief synopsis of its regional operations and plans. Wolverine mine, located on a mountain above the Wolverine River valley about half an hour out of Tumbler Ridge¸ loads its product directly onto CN. Brule must truck its coal more than 60 kilometers over the mountain to the Willow load out in the Pine Valley.
Quintette followed with its plans to resurrect the original facility but use a different pit. One of the larger potential mines, its start-up could have a have a major impact on the economy of Tumbler Ridge.
Anglo American, already shipping coal from its Trend Mountain mine about half an hour south of Tumbler on the east side of the Murray River, is prepping the adjacent Roman Mountain mine to absorb its Trend crew when that location is depleted.
Colonial Coal, about 85 kilometers south of Tumbler Ridge is in the exploratory stage but, given its distance from Tumbler and Chetwynd, I believe its economic effect on our communities will be marginal.
On the west side of the Murray HD Mining is preparing to go underground with long-wall mining in one of the largest mining operations planned or in operation in the north east. With its intention to at least start with foreign workers, the economic spinoff for our region is debatable.
Glencore, the former Xstrata, did not present at the Forum but this mine-in-planning about a half hour up the Sukunka with its philosophy of community support remains the operation with the greatest potential for benefiting Chetwynd.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor