The company that wants to build the first longwall underground coal mine in Canada near Tumbler Ridge was granted an extension on its environmental assessment review.
British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) Project Assessment Manager Mike Peterson told Alaska Highway News that the Ministry of Energy and Mines wants HD Mining International to provide further information on the composition of waste rock materials that result from the longwall method proposed for the Murray River Coal project.
The company requested the 30-day extension so additional studies could be done.
That will mean an EAO decision on an environmental assessment for the proposed project won't be issued until after July 1.
“[HD Mining] requested the extension to allow them to do some additional characterization of what’s called the 'gob,'” Peterson said.
Gob, or gaff as it is sometimes called, is what's left behind after the coal seam is removed.
It is the rough equivalent to waste rock in open pit mines, Peterson explained.
“What Ministry of Energy and Mines wants is more characterization of that rock so they can understand what type of metal leaching issues may occur as a result of it,” he said.
HD Mining International could make a final decision on the proposed coal mine by 2016, with a potential first year of operation in 2018.
It is expected to create 764 jobs in total, but more than half of those jobs would be filled by temporary foreign workers in the first year of operation.
By 2027, the company expects to have trained Canadian miners to take over.
It plans to achieve this through an agreement with the Northern Lights College in Tumbler Ridge in 2012 for the development of an underground mining training and education program.
In 2012, two B.C. labour unions took HD Mining to court over the proposed mine, arguing that HD didn't do enough to recruit Canadian workers, and as a result, unfairly excluded them in favour of temporary foreign
A federal court judge dismissed that argument in 2013.
The project is located 12.5 kilometres southwest of Tumbler Ridge.
Forty-eight workers from China and more than 50 Canadians were on the site in January, according to HD vice president Jodie Shimkus.
A 180-day review period on the company’s application for an environmental assessment was supposed to end June 1. With the extension, the review will have lasted for 210 days, ending July 1.
HD expects to have completed its bulk coal sample analysis by June 2016.
Preparatory work on the mine began in 2014.