The proposed open pit metallurgical coal mine is located 20 kilometres south of Tumbler Ridge. Teck is aiming to open the Window pit on north slope of Mt. Babcock, and to re-open the Windy pit, which was mined in 1997 through the mine's closure in 2000.
Municipalities across the Peace Region are being kept informed of the progress to date, with Proulx having updated the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) on February 23, the City of Dawson Creek on March 7, and the District of Chetwynd on March 21.
The closure of Quintette in 2000 due to low coal prices spurred many to leave Tumbler Ridge, shifting the town's economy towards being a retirement destination with cheap housing.
A feasibility study focused on geotechnical, environmental and cost aspects began in April 2010, and Teck now hopes to wrap up the study in mid-2011. From there, permitting could be completed by the end of the year, at which point the decision to re-open the mine would be put to Teck's board of directors. Capital costs to proceed are estimated at $500 million, said Proulx.
Should the mine open, Teck projects a mine life of 15 to 17 years, based on an annual production rate of up to 3.5 million metric tonnes of clean coal per year. In total, the two pits would produce 45 to 50 million metric tonnes over that time, along with 350 to 400 direct jobs.
The company's mines act permit for the property was first issued in 1982, and was amended in 1997 to allow mining to begin on Mt. Babcock. Last December, the company learned it won't have to go through a full provincial environmental assessment process, as most of the needed infrastructure is already covered under the 1997 permit.
The Windy and Window Pits would create a combined new disturbance of about four hundred hectares, which falls below the threshold established by the environmental assessment office, Proulx explained.
Teck is now talking to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans about what planning or authorization may be needed to mitigate the mine's potential effects on fish habitat. Teck is also obliged to ensure the mine doesn't infringe on treaty rights of area First Nations, including hunting and fishing rights.
The mine will also need to include management plans specifically for mountain caribou, mountain goats and grizzly bears. Mine design will provide one means of environmental protection, while management plans related to metal leaching, acid rock drainage (ARD), tailings, selenium and explosives will also be needed. The mine is expected to produce a total of 650 million cubic metres of waste rock – 300 million cubic metres less than what was anticipated under the 1982 plan.
While Teck would prefer to have its workforce live in Tumbler Ridge to enhance social stability, the company has no housing plans or projects in the works. A camp for workers remains a possibility.