Northeast B.C. mining restarts stall because CN Rail hasn't maintained tracks for shipping coal
Tumbler Ridge mayor says community is being 'held hostage' by CN
Coal mines are restarting in Tumbler Ridge, but companies can't ship to market because train lines maintained by CN Rail have fallen into disrepair.
Mayor Don McPherson says it appears the railway stopped looking after the track sometime in 2015 after the community's last coal mine shut down.
"I guess the board of directors for CN Rail decided that they didn't need to maintain the rail line," he said.
"It came as a surprise to me."
The discovery comes as there is renewed interest in coal from the northeast B.C. community.
Last year, Conuma Coal purchased three of the mines and announced plans to rehire many of the 700 people who lost their jobs two years ago.
The Brûlé mine, which ships coal by truck to a nearby rail facility, is already operational.
The second to start up is the Wolverine mine, which is much closer to Tumbler Ridge than Brûlé.
It comes with its own rail facility for direct shipment out of the community.
That can't be done, however, without $23 million worth of repairs to the CN Rail lines leading out of the community.
Unclear if or when repairs will happen
CN spokeswoman Kate Fenske confirms the line went out of service because there were no rail movements on it.
"Significant investments are needed to resume rail service to any potential new customer," she wrote in an email.
For [CN] to make a decision that affects a community I think is a little above what a private company should do.- Tumbler Ridge mayor Don McPherson
"We can acknowledge active discussion with local officials and potential customer but decline to give specifics."
McPherson said in his talks with CN it seems there isn't much interest in getting the line up and running in the immediate future.
In the short-term, coal can be shipped by truck but the single-lane road out of town can't maintain that sort of traffic for long.
McPherson also said there are other possible mine restarts that won't happen unless the rail line is operational.
He feels as if Tumbler Ridge is being "held hostage" by CN.
"That's the lifeblood of this town. For them to make a decision that affects a community I think is a little above what a private company should do."
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