Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Open Pit Mining Tour

This is Sparwood BC in the Elk Valley. You can see the coal processing plant at the bottom of the photo.

Looking away to the east, you can see more of the Elk Valley, where the coal seams run. Teck Coal Limited has five open pit mines in the valley and one more near Hinton.

This loader is scooping up the metalurgic coal, which is not used for heating, but for the manufacturing of steel, which is why it is so valuable and imported worldwide.

You can see the broad view of the pit. Even when you are standing there, it is almost impossible to gain a clear concept of the size and depth of the operation. Basically they are cutting away the mountain to reach the coal seam, then moving the debris to form another mountain nearby. It is all very technical and computerized: even the trucks & diggers are equipped with GPS so they dig precisely. All vehicles are radio'd and the supervisors know exactly who is where.

Away in the distance you can see the finished mountain, reclaimed with vegetation growing on it. There are more species of wildlife in the area now, than before the mining started. The animals really love the blend of grasses, shrubs and trees that are planted.

Strict rules about safety and coal dust keep the area relatively clean. Every vehicle goes through the wash bay before exiting the mine site. Employees shower and change before heading home. The towns in the area are very clean looking. The company recruits the young and the town has a thriving family population. I was impressed. Can you tell?