Northwest Alberta mine shut down in 2015, laying off 400 employees
Steelmaking coal producer Grande Cache Coal says it plans to reopen its shuttered surface mine and coal-processing plant next year. “It is expected that the [surface] mine will resume operations by the end of Q1 2017,” the Chinese-owned company said in a regulatory update posted to its website this week.
The coal processing plant would start operating within a month of the resumption of mining operations, the update said. But the plans depend on “shareholders’ approval and the negotiation of key contracts,” the company said, adding that pre-production activities would start in January.
The company also said it plans to apply to the Alberta Energy Regulator to mine one of its underground coal seams “and not to abandon it.” More information is expected at an open house in Grande Cache on Dec. 14, the company said.
Grande Cache Coal, a producer of steelmaking coal for export into Asian markets, has been the major employer in Grande Cache, a town of 4,000, 430 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. The company was acquired by Chinese coal producer Up Energy Development Group Ltd. in 2015.
In February of that year, Grande Cache Coal suspended surface-mine operations and 175 workers were let go. In December 2015, it ceased underground operations as well, putting 220 more people out of jobs.
But times have changed in the coal industry. In 2015, the price of coking coal averaged $120 US per tonne. Now, it’s selling for more than $300 US per tonne — prices not seen in five years.
‘People interested’ in investing in company
Gary Taje is the spokesperson for the United Mine Workers of America, the union representing Grande Cache Coal workers. He suspects there may be a move to find new ownership for the mine.
There are “people interested in putting money into the company to get it afloat … It appears they are close to making a deal,” Taje said.
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