Western Canadian Coal announced a projected construction start up date of Nov 2004 for the proposed Wolverine Mine site, Wednesday night at their open house. ?We are working quickly to get things in place,? says Charles Pitcher President and CEO of Western Canadian Coal. But is it fast enough for the unemployed miners in Tumbler Ridge?
?I can live pretty cheap, but I can?t live on nothing and nothing is what I will have in May when my Employment Insurance (EI) runs out,? commented one of the 300 people who crammed into rooms four and five for the Open house and presentation. I could stay here and try to pick up odd jobs to survive, but then who?s to say if I will even get a job at the mine site. Is it worth it for me to stay and take that chance?? So although the feeling was extremely positive at this meeting, there are still many uncertainties in the minds of the skilled workers who are looking for employment.
Mining Engineer Mike Allan said, ?Sure, I?m here because I?m interested in employment and this looks very positive, but it is going to be a very competitive labour market, I would like to stay in Tumbler Ridge, but I have other job interviews scheduled, which would ensure employment before my EI runs out?. In talking with Allan and others attending, the generally feeling is that their Employment Insurance benefits will be running out this spring or summer and people are unsure as to whether they will be able to hold on financially until fall when the construction phase is set to begin.
Also attending this meeting were Mary Ann Eyben and her sister Anna Mae Terry. Their interest in this project is not employment but the direct impact this mining operation will have on John Terry?s Ranch, which was left to the family when John passed away in 2001. ?The mine will be within five hundred yards of the Terry ranch. There will be a direct impact on the property?, says Mary Ann, one of John Terry?s daughters, ?We have negotiated a non-resident lease with WCC, who are looking at also leasing the back 33 acres.
Other people who were on hand for this meeting were: representatives from the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office, Keith Simpson, Wildlife Biologist from Keystone Wildlife, Gary Gurnsey, Manager of the Land Referral Office for the McLeod Lake Indian Band and members of the Tumbler Ridge business community.
Making the presentation to the audience was Kathy Pomeroy, Manager of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs. Pomeroy gave a power point presentation, which included pictures and maps of the intended mine sites. Western Canadian Coal is looking at two projects. The larger of the two is the Wolverine Mine, the smaller is the Dillon mine. There is an eleven-year mine life with a possible underground extension when the open pit is exhausted. The construction phase is set to begin in November 2004 creating a maximum of 210 jobs. Before construction can begin WCC has to have an EA Certificate and a Mine and Reclamation Permit. Major contractor selection is currently underway.
CEO Charles Pitcher then talked about the employment opportunities. He began by talking about the construction phase. A camp situation will be set up for the 200 men who will be hired for this phase. A contractor will also do the mining and stripping of the coal. Pitcher assured people that there wouldn?t be a noticeable difference between this style of mining and the more traditional style that local workers are used to. The contractor for both phases will draw on local resources, hiring locally and First Nations people. Over the next few months, resume taking will begin via the Internet, to begin setting up a local labour pool.
But with EI running out, people in town are chomping at the bit to see the new mine built. ?Just build it,? says John MacNeil. Howard Bassett echoes this sentiment, “Just build it,”.