Tumbler Ridge News received an invitation from Mine Manger Brian Saul to tour the facility at the minesite on January the 23rd.
My day started early with a drive out to the mine by Mr. Vic Felker who gave me a bit of a history of the land around the mine. John Terry?s homestead is located in the area. Terry was well known for his views on the environment, and although he is not longer with us, he penned a poem on the valley which is moving and speaks to his passion and love of the land. A copy of the poem is in Dr. Charle?s Helm?s book ?Beyond Rock and Coal?.
When I arrived at the Wolverine mine site, Mr. Felker directed me to sign myself in at the gates that lead to the plant and open pits. This is a mandatory safety precaution. I was then directed to the beautiful new office that Western Canadian Coal recently moved into in September of last year. The reception area and other offices were very clean and professional looking. The receptionist, Sandi Black informed Lorraine Vivian (Administrative Assistant to the General Manager), that I had arrived. Vivian had arranged my visit for Brain Saul.
Vivian was very informative and led me on a tour of the office building which includes a large lunch room complete with a dishwasher. We then went up a short flight of stairs that link to the main office building to the women?s dry. There I was able to peek out the door to see the Western Canadian Coal plant. The building and plant were set up very close to each other which is convenient for office personnel should they need quick and easy access to the plant.
After my tour of the offices, I met with Brian Saul for a short introduction to husband and wife engineer team Miodrag and Gordanda Slepcev. The Slepcev?s moved to Tumbler Ridge from Serbia last year, and find the town to be a friendly small community.
Currently, Western Canadian Coal is working in phase one and is already starting into phase two. There will be four phases that the mine will complete. Saul mentioned that there is underground mining potential once the open pit operations are completed. Saul also informed me that underground mining is cost effective and that open pit mining can become expensive. However, the planning for underground mining is still many years away.
After my short interview with Saul, I donned a pair of safety glasses, vest, and a hard hat to take my tour of the open pits and plant with Slepcev. As soon as the gates to the site were opened for us, Slepcev drove me to the maintenance area. I was able to see a couple of brand new rock trucks which were in the process of being assembled and tested. I was then taken to the phase one open pit to see all of the activity there. The equipment was so much larger than I imagined and yet being in the mining work environment, it seemed natural to see these large machines moving about for production. Operators were very friendly, waving and smiling as I snapped their pictures.
Slepcev then drove me to phase two which was quite a higher elevation than phase one. Here, there were also operators removing rock waste in order to get to the coal seams. At this level, I was able to clearly see the area across from the Wolverine where the Quintette mine was in production years ago.
After touring the open pits, I was able to go down to the plant to see where the 777, 785 and 789 rock trucks dump the coal they are hauling. This is where I was able to see the 992 loader scooping coal onto the Grizzly. The Grizzly loads the coal to the conveyor belt that leads to the plant where the coal is cleaned, dried and then stockpiled. After this, we drove from the plant to the silo where a CN train was just pulling in. The silo?s conveyor belt dumps the cleaned coal into the train?s boxcars.
From start to finish, the morning was very informative. I left with a better understanding of how the operations work out at the mine. I was very impressed with the level of security and safety precautions as well as the friendly staff in the Western Canadian Coal office that helped organize my visit and made this mine tour so memorable.