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Mayor’s Column – September 14, 2016

September 14, 2016


Coal! That black carboniferous substance that has paid the rent of hundreds of workers in Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd over the last 35 or so years is back again. We didn’t expect it, not just now, which makes its resurgence even more exciting. Once again hundreds of workers who have been subsisting on jobs with lesser pay – or on no jobs – can have hope that this Christmas there will be something under the tree. Hope does spring eternal in the human breast and from time to time it is rewarded.

Coal! That black carboniferous substance that some people hate and abominate as the driver of the end of civilization and others understand for what it is. Not all coals are equivalent. We have the thermal variety which, perhaps, we can do without. There is also the met coal and I’m not sure how even the most committed environmentalist can live without it.

I’m just looking around my desk as I think about my dependence on met coal. I like to keep my fingernails quite short and I don’t chew them. Ah, yes, my fingernail clipper made of steel. The scissors standing in the little brown jug just to the right of the clippers – they too are made of steel. The wire binding in my daytimer and the runners carrying my keyboard slider – steel. Let’s not forget the post supporting my swivel chair and the prongs on the electric cable connecting my computer to the snowflakes that ultimately power the turbines at Bennett Dam – steel.

But we should be using clean power from the wind and the sun. I don’t disagree. But this I have learned: Those gleaming white towers supporting turbines and wind catchers are made of steel – unless they’re made of concrete but our wind towers are steel.

This also I have learned: the approximate ratio of coal to iron in the steel-making process is 50-50. Those sleek steel towers contain 50% met coal by weight. Not sure the exact weight of my fingernail clippers but I’m sure there must be 100 million of them in North America – which works out to about 800 tons of steel in fingernail clippers alone of which half is met coal.

Coal! I get the picture.

Conuma Coal Resources Ltd. (office in Tumbler Ridge) as of September 9, 2016, is the new owner of the former Walter Energy properties. On September 12 owner Mark Bartkoski with General Manager Al Kangas met with the Chetwynd Council to present his philosophy of operation. I believe we have a winner here. I have confidence that Mr. Bartkoski is able to follow through with his philosophy of integrity and that it will display not only in staff and business relations but in respect and care for the environment. Mr. Bartkowski is anticipating staffing his operations with local workers living in Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge and avoiding, if possible, reliance on a camp.

Coal mining normally is not a benign operation. It can wreak devastation on the earth and on the miners and their families if it is carelessly prosecuted. That said, if Mr. Bartkosky is true to his word, and I have no doubt that he will be, Brule, Wolverine, and Willow mines will be showcases of business integrity and environmental responsibility.

Met coal! At this stage in our lives we cannot live without this black, carboniferous substance. Blessings on those who endeavour to extract it responsibly.

Am I an environmentalist? Indeed! And I welcome and support responsible industry.


Merlin Nichols, Mayor