THE COMPANY that wants to develop a coal mine in an area of northwestern BC prized by the Tahltan First Nation for its cultural and food-gathering values is for the first time talking openly about a buy out of its project.
But Fortune Minerals vice president Julian Kemp said today he remains convinced the province will allow it to continue collecting environmental and other data in the Klappan area that will lead to an official assessment and eventual approval for its Arctos Anthracite project.
“That would have to be a very serious negotiation that would have to be carried out,” Kemp continued, “there has been over a hundred million invested and it’s an asset that a Korean company is now invested in.”
Members of the Tahltan First Nation have for years opposed Fortune’s plans and have consistently wanted the area protected from development.
That position gained momentum nearly a year ago when another company, Shell, gave up its rights to explore for natural gas in the area in return for $20 million in royal credits from the province to be applied against a water treatment plant the company plans to build in a gas field near Dawson Creek.
But Kemp said his company’s proposed coal operation is unlike Shell’s proposal in terms of cost and risk to the company and that Fortune would “look for significant compensation, if it ever came to that.”
“The loss of Klappan to us as a company would be devastating. This is our flagship asset,” Kemp said, adding Shell is a very large company with many other projects so that dropping one wouldn’t affect its overall health.
He said Fortune currently values its Klappan project at more than $600 million and that during the environmental assessment stage the government will look at the economic forecasts Fortune has made.
The company estimates there will be $900 million in federal and provincial tax revenue and $10 billion total revenue over the project’s 20 year lifespan.
Kemp said the province will look at those figures and decide that it isn’t feasible to protect the area from all development and that the coal project fits in with a resource extraction strategy for the area.
Protestors earlier this week set up a blockade on the road leading into the Klappan Valley but Fortune officials say that hasn’t stopped data collection because a helicopter is being used to bring in equipment and supplies on the trucks turned back by the protestors.