Editorial: The start of summer and the end of TR as we know it

Trent Ernst, Editor


It was less than a week ago that the weather got cold enough that there was snow, at least at the top of the Happy Face Hill on the road to Dawson.

But in the last few days, we’ve turned a corner. Suddenly, the weather has gone from being warm to, phew, it’s downright hot out there.

And, with the kids already off school and yet another truck with a fifth wheel behind it  pulling into the Shop Easy parking lot, we may actually be able to call it summer.

Officially, it is summer. Last Saturday (June 21) was the Summer Solstice, meaning that from here on in, the days are getting shorter, and we’re getting closer and closer to the return of winter.

I was driving home from Dawson Creek Saturday morning at about 3 am, having run a photo booth at the Dawson Creek dry grad. The sun was already coming up when we left, and by the time I got home, it was bright enough to drive without headlights (if I had wanted to).

Other signs that its summer is the opening of the summer reading club and the fact that people are starting to wear less clothing. For myself, I’ve broken out the sandals and don’t expect to see me wearing anything other than shorts for the next 90 days or so.

This year, Summer brings with it an unfortunate side effect, as all those parents affected by the mine closures with kids in school who decided to stick around until the end of the school year are picking up, packing up and leaving. In the last week, I’ve seen at least a half a dozen people leave town after the layoffs.

I’m also seeing a lot more for sale/for rent signs going up around town as people find work outside of town.

And, while we all say that this time won’t be like last time, its hard not to start to get a little nervous as, two months later, Wolverine remains shuttered and coal prices are still down in the dump. While people keep saying prices will go up, coal prices are still down below $120US per tonne.

Over in Australia, many of the companies have been trying to cut costs and raise production, which, rather than solve the problem, has made it worse, and last month, it was estimated that nearly half the coking coal coming out of Australia was being produced at a loss.

While there have been a number of mines in Australia that have shut down in the last few months, it hasn’t been enough to shift the prices that much, because the mines that are closing are the lower volume/high price mines, leaving the low price/high volume mines still cranking out the coal.

And with demand for steelmaking coal only increasing modestly this year from last, most analysts are adjusting their estimates of when the market conditions will improve to 2015 at the earliest.

Which means another six months, and more likely another year of uncertainty for Tumbler Ridge.

And, by the time Walter does decide to re-open, there is a good chance that many of the people who were working there will have gotten new jobs and moved on to new places and won’t return.

Which means that, in a couple years, the population of Tumbler Ridge will once again be different. Not totally. For instance, I can’t see people like Ron and Norma ever leaving, but there will be a large chunk of the population that isn’t part of the first wave from the mid-1980s, or from the second wave of the early 2000s, or from the third wave of the late 2000s.

Which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s bad, because it’s always sad to see friends and acquaintances leaving town. But it’s exciting to see new faces, people with new ideas come to town, people who have new skills and new interests.

Just look at Councillor Leggett, who has only been here for a couple of years, and still is a relative newcomer. But he’s has turned his passion for mountain biking into a new mountain bike area over by the industrial park. While I love mountain biking, it’s not something I ever would have done.

So, while I will miss those people who helped define what Tumbler Ridge was, I look forward to meeting the people who will define it’s future.

Just a small housekeeping note: There is more news happening than I have time to cover alone. I’m not ignoring them, but am trying to give issues the attention they deserve, which means some things might sit around for a while. Sorry about that. If you wanted to write for us….