Community members packed Telkwa Elementary School to get a glimpse at new plans for a steelmaking coal mine. Marisca Bakker photo

Telkwa Coal holds open house

Plenty of residents came out to see the latest plans for a new steelmaking coal mine.

An open house for a new coal mine brought out plenty of residents with a lot of questions last Wednesday evening.

Allegiance Coal, which owns Telkwa Coal is planning on metallurgical coal mining project down Coalmine Road 10 kilometres southwest of Telkwa.

The prefeasibility study suggests an annual production of 240,000 tonnes with a 40 year mine life and a 1,000 ha footprint. The company expects to see two train sets with 23 cars a week and one loaded truck and one returning truck every hour. They will use the existing CN Rail Line to Prince Rupert and use existing roads with potential bypass upgrades for their trucks.

One change already made after initial discussions with the public is where those trucks will be driving.

Managing director Mark Gray revealed the new route during last Tuesday’s Smithers council meeting.

The truck driving back and forth each hour will not be going down the entire length of Coalmine Road, instead turning right and driving through one private property and Crown land on its way to the rail line.

The mine is expected to create 40-50 jobs for local people with an additional 110 indirect local jobs.

Gray wasn’t surprised at the high turnout for the open house.

“I know how important the valley is to the local communities and I expect nothing less,” he said.

Nor was he surprised at the type of questions residents had.

“Typically and importantly the impact on water quality and fish habitat to the Wet’suwet’en and the valley communities. And beyond that, good questions on dust and noise.”

Overall Gray said he’s received a good response from community members about the project.

“We are still early days,” he added. “I think some people are slightly misunderstood that we haven’t lodged a project description yet with the regulators. We didn’t want to do that until we got good solid community feedback. Things will evolve as we move forward and people will have more comments.”

The company is currently completing the feasibility study, which involves the detailed design of the proposed operation. The environmental baseline studies are also being completed by the third calendar quarter of this year, sometime between July and September. The permitting process begins after that.

Allegiance Coal plans on hosting more community meetings in the future. There will also be additional opportunities for public input and review during the regulatory process, scheduled for 2019.

“The views, concerns of the Wet’suwet’en and of the community are paramount to me and my board and my management team,” he said. “We are cognoscente of what they say and when we make decisions going forward, we put this very high on our list of factors.”

Telkwa Coal has an office in Telkwa at the Village building. Gray has invited anyone to set up meetings with him there if they want any more information.

–With files from Chris Gareau.

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