BC coal mine owners told stop trucking coal

Conuma restarted two idled metallurgical coal mines in the Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd area last year.

The new owners of the Wolverine metallurgical coal mine near Tumbler Ridge have been ordered by the provincial government to stop moving coal by truck and move it by rail.

There’s just one big problem: There’s currently no railway service to the mine. The Canadian National Railway Co. (TSX:CNR) spur line that connects to the Wolverine mine was shut down after the coal mine shut down in 2014.

According to the terms of its mine permit, Conuma Coal Resources Ltd. is only supposed to transport coal from its Wolverine mine by rail.

According to a BC Environmental Assessment Office non-compliance order issued July 5, 50 to 100 trucks per day have been moving coal 150 kilometres from the Wolverine mine to its Willow Creek mine site near Chetwynd for the last four months.

Although the Willow Creek mine is still idled, it has a railway loadoff, which explains why Conuma has been trucking coal there.

The Alaska Highway News reported in February that CN Rail had agreed to reopen that spur line, after the Wolverine mine restarted. But the line has yet to reopen.

Tumbler Ridge Mayor Don McPherson said the increased heavy truck traffic from the mine is taking its toll on highways 29 and 97. He aid the reopening of the spur line is taking so long because CN Rail had not maintained it.

“They’re really pounding out the road,” McPherson said. “It’s a sad thing because CN let that rail line just deteriorate and all I hear from CN is about their bottom line and their shareholders.

“That rail line was paid for a long time ago. I don’t think it should be an option that they can say we’re not going to maintain it.”

Ken McCoy, a managing director for Conuma, said he expects the spur line will be operational by the end of August.

“We’re still producing and we anticipate being able to rail the coal here pretty soon,” he said. “We’re also trying to get temporary approval to truck.”

Between 2014 and 2015, Walter Energy, which went bankrupt, closed its three coalmines in B.C., putting hundreds of workers in the Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd area out of work.

The mines sat idle until the fall of 2016, when the mines were acquired by ERP Compliant’s Canadian subsidiary, Conuma Coal.

The company restarted the Wolverine mine near Tumbler Ridge and Brule mine near Chetwynd.  The company had planned to restart the Willow Creek mine this summer.

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