Busy, busy busy

Trent Ernst, Editor

We’re two weekends through the trilogy of busy weekends here in Tumbler Ridge.

This weekend, of course, is the Emperor’s Challenge, while last weekend was the fifteenth annual Grizfest.

And, of course, the weekend before that was the Quintette Reunion.

At the same time as that event was happening, the tree planters descended on town for a few days while they waited for the actual trees to arrive for planting.

For a few days there, these two groups overlapped, and added to the people in town working on the Miekle Wind Project.

Looking out from our offices high on the first floor of Gilfillan Tower here in downtown Tumbler Ridge, the Shop Easy Parking lot was packed. People wandered in and out of the store, over to the community centre, over to Subway.

Some just loitered about, enjoying the sunshine and a cup of frozen yogurt.

Others, in town for the reunion, would bump into people they know and spend time standing on the sidewalk, just chatting.

And it felt … right.

It wasn’t just the familar faces, returned after an extended absence, it was just the sense that things were happening in town.

Okay, so there are very few, if any, locals working up at the wind project, and fewer still working planting trees. But for a few days there, it felt like Tumbler Ridge in its glory.

This week, Teck released it’s Q3 price estimates, and, while the value of met coal has gone up nearly 15 dollars since the start of the year, we’re still a long way off before we hit the  US$119 coal was at when Anglo decided to shutter its Peace River Coal project, before we hit the US$120 the price was at when Teck decided to halt its restart of Quintette, the US$130 coal was at when Walter threw in the towel.

Of the three, miners must pin their hopes on Quintette.

Anglo has stated publicly that it’s getting out of the met coal business, and plans to put it’s Tumbler Ridge properties on the block when they are able to sell it for more than pennies on the dollar.

And Walter Energy is actively seeking buyers for all its properties.

They are actively trying to sell off their mines, or at least their physical assets.

Last month, they were granted an extension to their stay of proceedings, which means they now have until August 19 to find someone to take over their mines, the third such extension, and probably not the last.

While things are not looking as grim for the industry as a whole, there is a ways to go before open pit mining in Northeastern BC becomes viable again.

Note, I said open pit. The jury is still out on the proposed Murray River Mine. While they say the cost of mining coal will be much lower once the mine is built, they still have to build the mine. We’re still three or four months out on them getting their mines act approval (or not) and them deciding to build the mine (or not).

So while the news is not exactly dire for mining, neither is it sunshine and roses.

And slowly, with each new wind project, with each new visitor coming to town looking for a guided experience, with each new local striking out to follow their dream as a videographer or tour guide, with each new person exploring the possibility of getting into foresty, the town’s economy is becoming less and less dependent on mining to save us.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if coal becomes the proverbial icing on the cupcake, and not the entire cupcake.