Made in Tumbler Ridge plan continues forward

Trent Ernst, Editor

 

Last October, then Mayor Darwin Wren, CAO Barry Elliott and EDO Jordan Wall went to Victoria to meet with a variety of Ministers to discuss a “Made in Tumbler Ridge” plan for economic recovery.

Rather than ask the Provincial Government to step in and solve the town’s ills, brought on by the idling of the town’s two coal mines, the plan was to make specific requests that would help the town pick itself up by its bootstraps.

These asks are around a handful of items: Supporting the Geopark; expanding the community forest; training for miners, both to transition into underground coal mining in the future as well as to transition into new jobs while the miles are down; to encourage the Province to approve alternative energy projects around the community; and to help Tumbler Ridge connect with foreign investors who could help develop the resources here.

EDO Jordan Wall says the town has built up a tremendous amount of good will by going to the Province with a plan in place, rather than just asking for money. “I met with Minister Bond,” says Wall, “And I reintroduced her to our plight, our plan, and our process, and she said it has been fantastically received. No community has ever done this. Usually, people drop their problems at the Province’s door.”

The Province wants to help, says Wall, but they are working to maintain a balanced budget, which means there is not a lot of finances that can be allocated to help Tumbler Ridge. “Any investment made needs to be strategic and surgical.”

“Our ask was very broad,” says Wall. “It outlined the plan. We said when we came back it would be very specific.”

Recently, Mayor McPherson, Councillor Mackay, and Elliott and Wall were down south again, meeting with representatives from industry as well as the Province to work on moving this plan forward.

Tumbler Ridge Centre for Mining Excellence

Wall met with representatives from HD Mining. He says the mine has really slowed down its forward momentum, keeping a low profile as they work towards their bulk sample and Environmental Certificate, as well as waiting for coal prices to improve.

This means, says Wall, they are only slowly moving forward on the idea of a training centre in Tumbler Ridge.

However, says Wall, he had a meeting with representatives from Immersive Technologies while he was down there, too. Immersive Technologies is a company that builds advanced equipment simulators for Surface and Underground Mining. He points to the College of the Rockies, which started offering training on these simulators a couple of years ago. “The College of the Rockies was able to partner with Immersive Technologies to set up a training centre,” says Wall.

Wall says the plan is to have a discussion with Northern Lights College and Northern Development Initiative Trust to start to put together a plan for creating a mining training centre here in Tumbler Ridge. “All these pieces are starting to fall into place,” says Wall.

Blowin’ in the Wind

While there has been some people saying that the Meikle Wind Project will be the last wind project in BC for the foreseeable future, Wall says we shouldn’t write off wind yet. He had meetings with BC Hydro, and they are going to be re-doing their load projections in the near future.

Wall says that when work started on Site C, there was no proposed LNG in the Province, and the current load projections do not take that into account. The load projections were also estimated based on two new mines coming on-stream in the next decade. “It looks like there will be five or six new mines,” says Wall, as well as a number of new forestry mills and the proposed Blue Fuel plant near Chetwynd.

Also, the load projections were based on 78 percent of new demand would be counterbalanced by conservation, a figure that appears to be too optimistic, says Wall.

Wall says he had a meeting with Ian Kilgour of Teck. And while they won’t be re-opening Quintette anytime soon, they did hint that a mine that was powered by wind-generated electricity would be an interesting project.

For now, Wall also thinks Tumbler Ridge needs to focus on the Standing Offer Program. “BC Hydro puts about three new projects a year,” says Wall. “Which projects go through is politically influenced, and this is where having a megaphone with the Province really helps.”

There is a problem, however. Right now, producers in the North get less money for energy produced here than in the south. This, says Wall, doesn’t make sense. “It hampers the ability of power producers in the north to compete.”

Wall says that he met with Clean Energy BC, which represents the Alternative Power Producers in the Province. They want Tumbler Ridge to take on an advocacy role with the Province. “We have a megaphone to the world right now,” says Wall. “And the government is listening.”