Editorial: Forward thinking

Trent Ernst, Editor


One of the most interesting thing that happened at Council this week (and yes, I know, we are a few weeks behind in running minutes from Council. The additional budgeting meetings have thrown us behind. Hoping to catch up in the next few weeks) came in the Councillor’s business section.

Councillor Will Howe, who has spent the last few weeks working with Capital Power on a blade replacement, said that Capital Power is interested in donating a blade to place somewhere in the downtown core.

As you are probably aware, just across from town hall is a shovel bucket, donated by Teck a number of years ago.

And it seems appropriate to have a wind turbine in the downtown, too. A celebration of both Tumbler Ridge’s past, present, and future.

Now, if you’re a coal miner (though I don’t think there’s many of you actually working in that field currently) don’t get your panties in a twist, I know that coal mining isn’t going away for a while and that the type of coal we mine is met coal and that the number of jobs at a mid sized coal mine is about 350, whereas the number of jobs that are at an operational wind project is about a dozen and all the other arguments that have raged about clean energy for years and years. I am not taking a shot across met coal’s bow.


But here’s the thing. Do y’all remember Bullmoose Mine? Was operating here in the 1980s and 1990s. Do you remember what happened to them?

They shut down. Why? Because they ran out of coal. Coal is finite. Once coal is gone, it’s gone.

And we need to start thinking now, long and hard, about Tumbler Ridge’s act three, because one of these times, coal is going to go away and it’s not going to come back.

It might not be for decades yet, but it will happen. Peace River Coal’s Trend Mine has 20.2 Mt of “proven and probable reserves” according to the 2013 British Columbia coal industry overview. If they come back and begin mining 2 Mt of coal per yer, that’s a ten year lifespan.

Walter’s Wolverine has 11 million tonnes. At  the same rate, that mine won’t last for six.

Yes, these are specific mines that are limited in the amount of coal they can mine due to the size of their coal licenses. And there is an estimated 4.9 billion tonnes of mineable coal in Northeast BC. Even if the amount of coal extracted from the ground climbs to 49 Mt per year, those resources won’t run out for a long time (490 million years, to be exact).

But that’s for the entire Northeast, and Tumbler Ridge does not control coal mining for the entire region. Indeed, this last go around, there were as many mines open in the Chetwynd area as there was in the Tumbler Ridge area. At some point in time, the amount of coal within easy reach of Tumbler Ridge is going to run out. Then what?

Again, I’m not saying the sky is falling. Mining will come again. And when it does, Tumbler Ridge will once again catch a ride into the stratosphere.

But what goes up, as they say, and it isn’t too soon to start thinking about ways to moderate the impact of the next bust in this boom/bust cycle. It isn’t too soon  for some blue sky thinking.

The Geopark is a great start. Wind Power is a great start. But we live in a global economy, where all you need is an Internet connection and a great idea. And there’s nothing that says Tumbler Ridge has to be just one thing or the other. It can be all these things and more besides. Now is the time to plant the seeds of a thousand ideas that will flower into a bright and diverse future for TR.