Westmoreland closing Coal Valley mine

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

The Coal Valley Mine outside Edson is ceasing operations this year, citing significant constraints and challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC and Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC announced on June 22 that it would suspend operations at its Coal Valley Mine.

The mine is a 20,660 hectare surface mine that exports bituminous coal to customers in Japan and Korea, as well as some domestic coal.

At full production, approximately 400 to 425 employees work at the Coal Valley Mine, said Elenor Siebring, director of corporate, environmental and regulatory affairs Canada at Westmoreland.

A release from Westmoreland stated that based on the latest assessment of the continuing and ongoing impacts of the COVID situation, the management team ultimately concluded that there was no other option than to place the mine into a state of care and maintenance.

As the mine transitions to a full care and maintenance schedule, Siebring said employee reductions will be carried out in a phased approach between August and December.

When the mine is in full care and maintenance, it is anticipated that approximately 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the employees will remain.

All infrastructure and assets will be maintained in a state that will allow a reasonable start-up of the mine, Siebring said.

Joe Micheletti, chief operating officer for Westmoreland stated in the release that safety has been the cornerstone priority at the operation and these actions highlight the extent to which the day to day activities at the mine have been compromised by COVID. 

He also stated that severance remuneration will be paid to all employees affected by the operation suspension.

“We would endeavor to re-hire our valued employees if restarting normal operations at the Coal Valley Mine,” Siebring said.

Given the continued uncertainty imposed by the pandemic, Siebring couldn’t answer what it would take for operations to restart again.

“Westmoreland will assess this on a continual basis as we continue to keep the health and safety of our employees our number one priority,” she said.

Westmoreland’s management team is currently working with stakeholders on a phased reduction of production operations with the transition to full care and maintenance activities expected to occur within the next quarter.

The Coal Valley Mine was opened in 1978 to supply coal to Ontario Hydro and for overseas export.

The Coal Valley announcement comes the same month that Teck Coal transitions its Cardinal River mine near Cadomin to closure.