Tumbler Ridge Coal Mine Expansion Underway

Trend Mine | BCBusiness
Anglo American’s Trend mind near Tumbler Ridge.

One company flies in executives from England to mark the start of a $200-million coal-mine expansion, while B.C.’s Teck Corp. mothballs similar plans

Despite a staggering drop in metallurgical coal prices, Anglo American PLC announced last week it has begun work on expansion of its Trend mine about 400 kilometres northeast of Tumbler Ridge. CEO Mark Cutifani flew to Tumbler Ridge from the company’s head office in London, England, last week to officiate at the August 15 sod-turning ceremony celebrating an estimated $200 million investment in B.C.

The expansion of Anglo American’s Trend coal mine will see operations extended to a mountain adjacent to the existing mine, where the company expects 2.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal to be mined as early as late 2014. Phase one of construction, which began with the soil-turning ceremony, will see establishment of new road infrastructure and a water treatment plant.

For people in the Peace region, what Anglo American has dubbed the Trend-Roman expansion project couldn’t come at a better time. Over the 16-year life of the project, the company plans to keep the current workforce of 450 people on the job.

The news is in stark contrast to Teck Corp.’s July 25 announcement that it suspended its plan to reopen the nearby Quintette coal mine, which had received permit approval a month earlier. Teck announced that it has delayed the final stage of development for the mine indefinitely, depending on when the market for steelmaking coal recovers.

Anglo American’s Trend-Roman expansion reflects the company’s optimism that metallurgical coal prices will rebound by the time the new project enters production late next year. Anglo spokesperson Federico Velásquez says the proximity of Trend-Roman to the existing mine, with its established rail link to Prince Rupert, means the expansion can move forward with minimal new infrastructure costs.

The announcement was made possible by a provincial Mines Act permit amendment issued just a week earlier, a permit that would have taken up to 310 days in the past, before Premier Christy Clark announced ambitious mining targets in her 2011 Jobs Plan, which at the time promised eight new mines and the expansion of nine others in B.C. by 2015.

“Today, by developing a more effective review process, the project was approved in approximately 120 days, allowing the company to create local jobs faster,” said a prepared statement from Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, who attended the event with Anglo American’s Mark Cutifani, local First Nations leaders and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett.

As part of its goal of getting more new and expanded projects into production, the B.C. government has to date seen one new mine begin production and six more, including Trend Roman, under construction or permitted.

The expansion of Anglo American’s Trend coal mine brings the mining part of the B.C. Liberal government’s 2011 Jobs Plan one step closer to fulfillment. The 2011 plan commits to opening eight new mines nine mine expansions by 2015.

Since the B.C. government’s 2011 job plan was released, seven new mines have been permitted or are under construction:

  • Newgold Inc.’s New Afton gold, silver and copper mine, near Kamloops has started operating
  • Mt Milligan Copper-Gold mine, near Prince George, is expected to begin production in the second half of 2013;
  • Red Chris Copper-gold mine, near Dease Lake, is now moving forward with construction;
  • Bonanza Ledge Gold Mine, near Barkerville, was permitted in December 2011;
  • Treasure Mountain Silver-Lead-Zinc mine, near Hope, was permitted in May 2012;
  • Quintette Coal mine, near Tumbler Ridge, was permitted in June 2013; and,
  • Trend-Roman expansion of the Trend Coal mine, near Tumbler Ridge, was permitted in August 2013 and is now moving forward with construction.

Since the B.C. government’s 2011 job plan was released, the Province has approved six major expansions of existing mines:

  • Highland Valley Copper Mine, near Ashcroft
  • Huckleberry Copper-Molybdenum Mine, near Houston
  • Quinsam Coal Mine, near Campbell River
  • Elkview Coal Mine, near Sparwood
  • Endako Molybdenum Mine, near Fraser Lake
  • Gibraltar Copper-Molybdenum Mine, near Williams Lake