Trent Ernst, Editor
With no mines operating in the Northeast, you would think the tenor of the annual community coal and energy forum would be subdued. Possibly even cancelled.
But on October 8 and 9, people working in the industry in Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd gathered for the tenth annual conference.
With no operating coal mines in the area, there were no mine tours; instead, there were helicopter tours of the Chetwynd area and a tour of the wind farms on Wednesday.
On Thursday were the presentations. The only mining organization to make a presentation was HD, who talked about where they are at, and about the process of longwall mining in BC.
Other presentations included a discussion about the Twin Sisters Native Plant Nursery, which is raising native plants for replanting projects by the mines and other industrial users, Avro Wind Energy discussing the Sundance Wind Project, Spectra Energy, discussing gas supply in the region, the Industrial Training Authority discussing their current restructuring, and the honourable Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines.
Mayor Merlin Nichols says that coal has been a mixed blessing to the northeast. “12 months ago we wouldn’t have expected the hammering that the coal business would bring,” he says. “Tumbler Ridge has been hit hardest, but Chetwynd has been impacted, too. While mine closures hurt, they will not keep us down.”
He says that he is confident that Tumbler Ridge will live and grow. He points to the new Geopark. Chetwynd, too, will survive, with two energy plants in production, one biomass and the other a pellet plant. And forestry is strong in Chetwynd, and the cattle industry is making a comeback.
“Gas is struggling,” says Mayor Nichols. “But the Pine River gas plant is still pumping gas in the traditional way. There are 65 workers at gas plant, but upstream, and with contractors, over 100 families draw their livelihood in the traditional way in Chetwynd. That’s conventional drilling, not shale gas.”
In addition, Chetwynd has tourism, “and all the service industries that contribute to making Chetwynd livable and prosperous. It is a cosmopolitan place. It is a place where anyone can feel at home. It is one of the most livable communities you could experience.”
Mayor Nichols gives a special thanks to the transportation industry. “Chetwynd, like many other communities is totally dependent on wheels,” he says. “I’d like to acknowledge our truck drivers. Without them, the economy of Chetwynd would remain right here. And there’s CN rail. We owe a lot to the people who haul the timber, the coal. They haul the commerce of this community. I’d like to go on record to say that I appreciate what they do for this community.”