Chinese firms bet big on B.C. coal

Chinese companies have announced investments totaling $1.36 billion to develop two new coal mines in northeast B.C.

Premier Christy Clark meets with mining executives in Beijing Wednesday.

Premier Christy Clark continued her trade mission in China Wednesday with the announcement of a $1.36 billion in investments by Chinese companies to develop two new coal mines in northeast B.C.

One project is the Gething coal property 25 km south of Hudson’s Hope, which has been explored since 1971. The recent resurgence of coal mining in the Peace River region has so far been open-pit operations, with two small mines opened in 2004 and two more in 2006, but the rising price of metallurgical coal has increased interest in underground mining.

Three Chinese companies formed a partnership called the Canadian Kailuan Dehua Mines Co. Ltd. to develop the Gething mine. The partnership announced an investment of $860 million, and estimates the mine can produce two million tonnes of washed coal per year for more than 30 years.

In a conference call with reporters from Beijing Wednesday, Clark said the second project is also in the Peace region, but investors have not yet announced the exact location. Another group of Chinese companies has announced it will invest $500 million in that mine.

The Gething project applied for B.C. environmental assessment in 2006 and also faces First Nations and community consultation. The project application described alternatives for bringing the coal out from the mine site near the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, using trucks on forest service roads or barges down Williston reservoir to connect to highways and the CN rail line.

Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell first announced the Chinese investments in March. The investors estimate the Gething project will create 773 long-term direct jobs.

Clark said she spoke with Chinese company executives about the major investments office being set up by the B.C. government to speed up approvals for projects like the mines.

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