Trent Ernst, Editor
The roller coaster ride for the coal industry in Tumbler Ridge continues, with Anglo American officially opening the Roman Mine, an expansion of its current Trend operations.
The grand opening comes only weeks after Teck announced it was putting the Quintette project on the backburner for now.
With a total estimated cost of $200 million, Anglo will be putting about $50-million of that into the mine during the first phase of development.
The expansion is taking place, despite coal’s continuing price slide, hitting USD$147 a tonne, which is less than half of what it was making two years ago.
Seamus French, Head of Coal for Anglo, says that this is an investment in the long-term. “We think there’s enough coal to keep going for 50 to 100 years. We’re looking to make long-term commitments. We see this as the first of a series of commitments we’re going to make to this part of the country over the next ten years. The vagaries of short-term pricing makes it a bit more complicated right now, but we’re looking at the long term. Where we want to be in ten or twenty years, and we make our decision based on that.”
Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, was one of the dignitaries on-hand at the grand opening, joining mayor Darwin Wren, MLA Mike Bernier, West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson, Anglo American’s Chief Executive, Mark Cutifani and head of Anglo’s Coal division Seamus French.
Bennett says that this commitment to the long-term is what sets Anglo American apart from junior mining companies. “When prices go down, the junior companies just close up shop,” says Bennett. “That’s why we want companies like Anglo here. They’ve got the deep pockets, and aren’t affected as much by the commodity pricing.”
French says that the current Trend Operation would be out of coal in the next four years, but the new Roman expansion will allow the company to keep mining in the area for another twenty years. “This is really best for standing jobs,” says French. “There’s 450 people employed here. This guarantees continued employment for an extra 16 years, so twenty years.”
The mine is currently producing about 1.5 million tonnes annually. French says that should go up to 2.5 million tonnes when phase one of the Roman expansion is brought on-stream. When phase two begins, French says output will ramp up to four million metric tonnes of coal, at which point in time the company will bring on additional workers.
Mark Cutifani, CEO of Anglo American announced that the company was setting aside land to protect caribou habitat. “As a company committed to maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection, we are proud to be the first company in British Columbia to take the unprecedented step to set aside 1,852 hectares of our tenures to protect caribou habitat.”
Cutifani also announced that the company will contribute $2.566 million towards the Government of British Columbia’s Peace Northern Caribou Plan.
As part of the company’s environmental commitment, they plan to build the first selenium water treatment facility in the northeast, which will cost about half of the initial budget.
Shortly after the ceremony, construction began on a holding pond, marking the beginning of work on the new project.
The expansion should be complete by the first quarter of 2014.