Tuesday, February 9, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 6 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“While other ski areas have shrinking numbers, we have growing numbers.”
- Dave Morrison  
- on the ski hill’s success   
during tough times   

 

Project would extend mine life by 20 years
 
The lifespan of any mining operation is limited by the amount of material available to be mined out. The Line Creek coal mine, part of the Teck Coal operation in the Elk Valley and employer of numerous Crowsnest Pass residents, is seeking to extend its operational lifetime by at least two decades with a planned expansion of its mining area.
Representatives of Teck Coal and its environmental assessment consultant, Golder Associates, met with council on Thursday, February 4. It was one of a series of meetings held with municipal councils in the Pass, Fernie, Sparwood, and Elkford. The meeting was also attended by local media and some members of the local Community Futures office, Chamber of Commerce, and real estate business.
"We are embarking on a mine expansion for Line Creek," said Cal McDougall, Lands and Housing Coordinator with Teck Coal. "We're early into the process. We're after input."
He explained that Teck Coal has been seeking input both on the mine expansion and on how the expansion might affect neighbouring communities, both socially and economically. Such considerations are part of their environmental assessment. In addition to these meetings, Teck Coal plans to host public open houses in the near future.
Lyle Douglas, Engineering Superintendent at Line Creek, explained the expansion itself, including the company's motivation for doing so.
"Line Creek, as we know it right now," said Douglas, "the reserves are going to be completed by the end of 2014." With the limited coal reserves remaining in the existing mine site, he said, their plant has been operating at 70 percent capacity, producing two and a half million tonnes of coal per year.
The planned expansion would open up new mining areas directly north of the current Line Creek site. Douglas said that the total disturbance area of the expansion site would be approximately 8 km from north to south and 3 km from west to east.
If the expansion area goes through, he said, mining could continue at Line Creek until 2032, 18 years longer than the current projection. This would sustain the current work force of approximately 400 employees through that time, he said, and would add an expected 10 to 15 new jobs.
He added that there are additional coal resources in the area, and that further options could potentially be explored once 2032 arrives.
Under their current plan, said Douglas, Teck Coal plans to have approvals and plans all in place by 2012, and to begin development work in 2013. The expansion area would go into operation in 2014. By 2016, he said, their plant could rise to 100 percent capacity and produce an estimated three and a half million tonnes of coal per year.
Roxanne Scott, a socioeconomist with Golder Associates, said that this is one of the first environmental assessments being done for a mine in the Elk Valley.
 
She said that they want to get a sense of the communities that can be affected by the expansion, looking at issues such as economics, employment, housing, infrastructure, transportation, and traffic, among others.
Director of Finance Marion Vanoni asked how Teck Coal plans to retain and recruit workers as the current workforce ages, as they will need new workers to continue their operations at Line Creek until 2032. Scott said that they are performing a demographic analysis of the workforce and will be looking at replacement requirements.
McDougall noted that Line Creek began operations around the same time that the Coleman Collieries were shutting down. He said that there are quite a few Crowsnest Pass people working at the mine who used to work at the Coleman Collieries and who are now getting older.
Mayor John Irwin noted that the Crowsnest Pass hospital is an important quality of life selling point for our community when mine workers are choosing where to live.
Public Works Superintendent Ray Mahieux raised the issue of transportation. He asked if Line Creek planned to maintain bus transportation for mine workers from the Pass.
McDougall replied that transportation is an ongoing discussion. "I can't see the Line Creek situation changing anytime soon," he said. "It's kind of a way of life right now."
Councillor David Cole said that he feels many people look more at Sparwood and Elkford instead of the Pass, and that he hopes Teck will promote the Pass equally with those two communities as a place to live.
McDougall indicated that he directs workers to all of the potential communities when they are looking for housing. He noted that many mine workers naturally like to live closer to where they work, but that there are always some who prefer to live in the Crowsnest Pass as well. He said that the bussing works well for those people.
Councillor John Salus said that he feels Teck should be advocating the Alberta government to upgrade Highway 3 through the area, to help with traffic congestion. He also said that he feels Teck should provide funding to culture and recreation programs and venues, in order to help attract mining families to the area.
Mayor Irwin expressed council's appreciation for the meeting. "I think it's very positive that you've taken the next step to develop your resources," he said. "The mines are a great part of the economy in this area. It's a good fit for the future." Additionally, he commended Teck Coal for being a good corporate citizen throughout the area.
According to Scott, Teck Coal plans to continue seeking public input in the Pass, Fernie, Sparwood, and Elkford, as well as looking at the impact to a larger regional centre such as Cranbrook, and the impact on the province of British Columbia as a whole. They are consulting with different user groups that operate in the area surrounding the Line Creek mine, and will be seeking the various environmental approvals necessary to expand their mining operation.
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