William Harrison is passionate about coal. He is the Coalmont Energy Corp. Mine Manager and Director of Marketing and Coal Quality. One can see his obvious delight when he starts to explain the geology and nature of the 60 million year old seam that comprises the Blakeburn property.
When it comes to coal processing and environmental impact, Harrison is no slouch either. “It’s time to move ahead with better coal processing” he explains. “Japan requires it, and that’s where the whole world is going.” He suggests that he may become unpopular with the rest of the coal industry in Canada because he has raised the bar. The new plant recycles all of its water and does not discharge any. The wash plant is from the UK and is considered the best available. This capability does not come cheap. Indeed, half of the cost of the plant is for water processing.
One of the things we’ve seen discussed in the news lately is coal dust. Other mines don’t wash as well. With the style of processing done here, coal dust from the finished product is almost non-existent, and for the local part of the journey is of no consequence anyway because the trucks are covered. Another aspect of the coal from this plant is the extremely low sulphur content. This is one of the things which has attracted Japanese buyers. From an environmental point of view, we can also take heart in the fact that Japan uses very high quality Krupp and Siemens generators which have the lowest emissions.
At the meeting earlier this week, people wanted to know how long we would be seeing the coal trains coming through here. We were assured that within a few weeks they would be going the other way on the new road to the Coquihalla. This made the discussion of road dust in town somewhat moot, however there is certainly a willingness by the mine to revisit the issue and contribute to a solution should the need arise. A question was also asked about the viability of hauling on the back road during winter and particularly spring breakup. Apparently there should not be a problem since Arthon, of which CEC is a subsidiary, is a road building company and will be maintaining the quality and construction of the road to ensure all year usability. We should also know that any complaints about trucks and general traffic caused by the mine here are taken seriously. One upside is that not only do 100 people get direct jobs at the site, but about 300 indirect jobs are created by the operation.
Harrison is also sensitive to the traditional use of the Blakeburn Road and is willing to consider solutions to any problems there. With all the people working at the site, there is a possibility of lowering the number of vehicles going up and down by using a shuttle bus. The issue of snowmobile access in the winter, particularly to get around the mine site, is also being addressed. The bottom line is that the mine is very aware that people live and recreate in this area.
So, is this all just a flash in the pan? Apparently not. There is at least enough quality coal to operate profitably for 20 to 30 years or more. In fact the next five year’s production is already sold. §