Second coal mine restarting prompts hiring of 220 more people
Ami Strang was working as a lab technician at the Wolverine coal mine in Tumbler Ridge when it was shut down in April 2014. “I moved back in with my parents, I put all my stuff back in storage,” she said. She later found work in Fort McMurray, but it involved being away from home for long stretches of time.
“Luckily for me I’m single and don’t have any kids,” she said. “I know a lot of families here whose dads are gone to camp and aren’t home very often. So it was very hard on the community.”
Strang was one of more than 700 Tumbler Ridge residents to lose their jobs in 2014 and 2015 as dropping demand for coal led to a series of mine closures in the community of just under 3,000 people. “We went to work one day and found out we weren’t working,” Strang recalled. “It was pretty rough.”
That sentiment is shared by Tumbler Ridge Chamber of Commerce executive director Jerrilyn Schembri. “Things were feeling a little bit hopeless,” she said. “Houses were going back to the banks, people didn’t have a lot of extra money and people were really just holding on in the hopes that something would happen.”
Something did happen earlier this year when Conuma Coal, a newly formed Canadian affiliate of West Virginia’s ERP Compliant Fuels, purchased three Tumbler Ridge coal mines, including Wolverine. “That really was a shot in the arm to Tumbler Ridge,” Schembri said. “All of a sudden the whole mood seemed to change … the feeling around town brightened.”
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