By Andrea Horton
Executives from a company proposing to construct a new coal mine in the Elk Valley, have been meeting with Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford councils, and plan to begin construction in 2014.
Centermount Coal’s proposed Bingay Creek coal mine site is about 21 km north of Elkford. This is an area that has had coal exploration dating back to the beginning of the 1900s. There have been a series of companies in the area that have held licences there over the years. Centermount Coal Ltd, a B.C. company, currently holds four coal licences in the area issued by the Province of British Columbia. They purchased the licences from Hillsborough Resources Ltd. in 2009 and conducted an active exploration program in 2010 and 2011.
“We are well along in our preliminary feasibility study,” said Jack Austin, Chairman Centermount Coal Ltd. “The total investment to date is approximately $20,000,000.”
“At this stage we want to show our position and our progress to the communities in the Elk Valley,” said Austin. “We want to engage in discussions. We don’t want to take anyone for granted and we want to deal with reasonable concerns. We think that we can add a lot of value to the economy over the 20 year operating term that we are looking at.”
There are 14 consultants working on the project whose reports indicate the area contains approximately 170 million tonnes of total resource and 39 million tonnes of clean coal product.
The Bingay coal project will be an open pit mine for the first 15 years and 100 per cent underground for the remainder of its life. It is proposed that by 2016 clean coal production will be one million tonnes and 2 million tonnes every year after. The primary focus for the mine will be metallurgical coal.
The total capital investment for the mine will be approximately $500,000,000 most of that will be invested in 2014 and 2015 if the project is able to stay on schedule.
The area is already specifically designed for coal mining, there is no rezoning needed, most of the area being mined is already clear cut.
From an environmental standpoint, waste rock management and reclamation are an integral part of the mine plan. Waste rock will be stored in discrete locations to allow runoff to be collected, stored and treated prior to its release into the environment. There is a selenium study underway, the sample collection is complete and Centermount Coal Ltd. is waiting on lab results. The preliminary work has been completed, further studies are ongoing. The next step in the process is to initiate discussions with stakeholders regarding the proposal based on the current layout and then the Environmental Assessment process will begin.
The Environmental Assessment process will allow for a formal opportunity for the Ministry of Environment (MOE), First Nations, communities and other stakeholders to provide input.
According to the presentation given to Fernie City Council on January 23, consultation is underway with Ktunaxa Nation and the provincial government in regards to the project. This includes financial support to the Ktunaxa Nation to allow them to assess the project.
Centermount Coal Ltd. preliminary transportation plan includes upgrading the Elk Forestry Service Road, paving the road through Elkford for the District and providing buses for Bingay employees. They will also build a bridge to connect the mine across the Elk River and rail construction will take place to connect Bingay to the main CP route at Greenhills. There will be two trains per week.
The economic benefits to the Valley include direct job creation for the operation as well as local offsite services. The three communities will see an increase in the mine tax sharing revenue as Bingay will become a part of the mine tax sharing agreement.
The mine itself will employ approximately 350 staff members and the proposed schedule will be seven on, two off for two weeks and then seven on and three off for one week. The shifts will be eight hours long and shift work will be involved.
Centermount Coal Ltd is currently making presentations to Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford Councils. The public consultation process will be ongoing, the Environmental Assessment will begin this year and will take 18 months to two years to complete. Mine construction will start in 2014 and production will begin in 2016 and will be at full production by 2017.