Five years ago, Tumbler Ridge (TR) was a mere shadow of the town that was built in Northeast BC more than a decade before that. Coal mines that were the reason for TR?s existence had been abandoned due to low demand, and corresponding low prices, around the world.
But today, coal is king around the world once more, and prices have revived. Tumbler Ridge is thriving again thanks to companies like Western Canadian Coal, which in 2006 began mining operations at the Perry Creek mine at the Wolverine property, now the Brule mine, and before that the Dillon mine, at the Brazion property. Soon it will also be turning out coal from the newly acquired Willow Creek mine at the Falls Mountain property.
Today, Western Canadian Coal is one of the town?s top employers, and a strong reason why Tumbler Ridge?s population has more than doubled to over 3,000 people since the coal mines shut down earlier this decade.
Western?s growth has been beneficial, not only for the District, but also for the mines themselves. Expanding from a mere 0.6 million tonnes of coal in 2006, the mines will produce 3.7 million tonnes of high quality metallurgical coal this year. This is expected to increase to 7 million tonnes by 2012.
The company has invested more than $400 million into mines in the region, and, through the more than 600 people who work for it, pumps more than $45 million in wages annually into the district?s economy. Western is in many ways the financial heart of the Tumbler Ridge community.
And this heart will likely beat even stronger in future because Western expects 2008 to be a transforming year for itself and the community of Tumbler Ridge. Current coal prices are 350% higher than last year?s prices, and Tumbler Ridge?s metallurgical coal is in high demand from top steel makers around the world. Also, Western does not face the rail or port constraints, as does its competition globally, so is considered a highly sought after and reliable supplier.
?The resurgence of coal mining by companies like Western has provided a resurgence of energy, jobs, and economic development to Tumbler Ridge,? observes District Mayor Mike Caisley, himself an employee of Western, where he is Manager of Community and Aboriginal Development.
?Our population has gone from just over a thousand to more than 3,000 today. It?s so nice to see new faces and new people here. It?s also helped the town in that it can now plan again for the future.?
Western Canadian Coal understands that it is an important cornerstone of the Tumbler Ridge community and
takes that role seriously. For example, it takes great pride in the fact that it has won safety awards in 2006, 2007 and 2008, an important consideration when a large proportion of a town?s workforce works for one employer. It also takes pride in the fact that it will continue to be a cornerstone for some time.
?Tumbler Ridge had some hard times for a while, but the community came together to help us build this company and weather the difficulties that sometimes comes with that,? said John Hogg, Western Canadian Coal?s Chief Executive Officer and President.
?The community should take pride in that it has helped create a major global coal producing company here. In return, we want Tumbler Ridge to know that the future looks very bright for Western Canadian Coal as well as the town. We plan to be here for a long time.?