Victoria – Chetwynd’s Willow Creek coalmine is sending its first coal shipment to Asia today, says Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom.

“Coal is one of the most valuable commodities mined in B.C., and changes our government have implemented to open up that industry are benefiting the northeast,” says Lekstrom. “Today’s shipment is proof the coal is back in B.C. and is playing a key role in putting our province’s economy back on track.”

Pine Valley Mining Corporation began commercial-scale coal production at its Willow Creek coalmine – B.C.’s first in 20 years -at the end of July, with an initial production rate of 45,000 tonnes per month. Coal is being extracted, crushed and trucked from the mine pit to the rail siding, railed to the Neptune Bulk Terminals coal port in North Vancouver, and then shipped to steel mills in Asia and Europe.

“The workers at that mine aren’t the only ones who are benefiting,” says Lekstrom. “It’s also about everyone supporting production like truckers and rail workers. Businesses and families are coming back to our communities.”

Earlier this year, Lekstrom spoke in favour the Coal Act, noting the bill would create a friendly, efficient atmosphere for industry to do business with government, which he said would have a significant impact on employment in the area. “I can’t say enough about what this bill means to the northeast part of our province and in particular two communities in my region, Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd,” he said.

“This first shipment from Willow Creek is significant, but there is more to come and that’s great news for working families in the northeast,” says Lekstrom. “Pine Valley has completed sales for another 435,000 tonnes of coal to the end of March and is continuing negotiations for more sales well into the future. That means jobs.”

Approximately 37,000 tonnes of coal was loaded today for shipment to Asia, following 9,000 tonnes loaded last week for shipment to Europe. Willow Creek currently consists of a reserve of 15 million tones and significant resources have been identified at surface within a small radius of the Project’s infrastructure.

Coal powers nearly 3,000 direct and more than 6,000 indirect jobs in BC. Our province generates 38 per cent of Canada’s coal production.