A Conservative MP is calling on the Liberal government to take action on divesting the Dominion Coal Blocks — a large tract of land in the Elk Valley — for resource development.
Candice Bergen, the Tory opposition critic for natural resources, is also in Cranbrook to meet with local mining associations and companies, including Teck Coal, to gather feedback on the state of the industry.
She slammed the federal Liberal government for adding more red tape to the process of approving natural resource development projects and accused them of being unaware of the current status of the Dominion Coal Blocks, two parcels of land adding up to 20,000 hectares that has been federally owned since 1905.
“We definitely are disappointed with their lack of promotion of Canadian natural resources,” said Bergen. “They seem to be almost apologizing instead of doing what I think good leaders should do in Canada, and that’s be proud about our clean technology, about our responsible way of developing Canadian natural resources and the jobs they create.”
Bergen defended the former Conservative majority government and said that the issue of divesting the coal blocks was an issue it was addressing, led by former Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks.
“We were moving it forward,” Bergen said. “It was on our radar, there were a number of different MPs that David worked with — Ted Menzies, the late Jim Flaherty. We are, fundamentally as Conservatives, really proud of natural resources and we don’t think this coal should be left in the ground, it should be used to make steel and this is what David Wilks was doing and promoting.”
The Elk Valley is home to the second largest active metallurgical coal mines in the world, that directly and indirectly employ 20,000. Teck Coal operates metallurgical coal mines at Elkview, Coal Mountain, Fording River, Greenhills and Line Creek. The company shelved a plan to expand operations at Coal Mountain last year.
Bergen admits that the price of coal, which as trended downwards to $40 a short ton since reaching a peak of over $120 back in 2009.
Despite the tumbling price, Bergen says the coal blocks is generating interest from the industry, but adds that the Liberal government isn’t doing enough to promote it.
“There is an interest as far as companies wanting to develop this,” she said. “I wish it could’ve happened a lot faster and that’s definitely what we’d be advocating for, but there’s no excuse now for it to be just sitting.
“I think the frustration is that the Liberals aren’t even aware of it. That’s concerning.”