First Coal Corporation

First Coal Corporation

June 21, 2010 11:47 ET

New BC Caribou Protection Plan Will Merge Well With Work Already Under Way, Says First Coal

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - June 21, 2010) - First Coal Corporation (FCC), a privately held coal mining company developing properties in northeast British Columbia to produce steelmaking coal, is pleased with the announcement of a provincial program to protect threatened caribou in the region. The company holds a coal mining tenure licence that is currently the subject of an environmental assessment to permit coal mining southwest of Chetwynd.

"This program most importantly provides for the preservation and augmentation of the local caribou herd," says Doug Smith, First Coal's CEO. "It will merge well with First Coal's existing caribou mitigation and monitoring program. We are already doing extensive work to protect the caribou and deter their predators, and look forward to continuing work that could lead to an environmentally sensitive mining operation providing protection for the local caribou and significant economic benefits for the region."

In response to a judgment handed down March 19, 2010, by BC Supreme Court Justice Paul Williamson, the provincial government and the West Moberly First Nations have developed a program to protect and augment the Burnt Pine herd consisting of from 9 to 19 woodland caribou that winter partially on First Coal's 4,500 hectare Central South property. The total range of the herd is just under 176,000 hectares.

The program will protect and augment the caribou on core habitat while allowing current tenure holders, including First Coal, to proceed with developments on select property within the caribou protection area. There will be no new development for the western portion of the range area. However, First Coal had already moved its activities away from the western windswept, high elevation ridges which constitute the highest value early winter caribou habitat. The program also addresses the risk of predators to caribou with a number of management actions focusing on predator control.

First Coal has in place a monitoring and mitigation plan that has documented the herd's movements and behaviour during the company's bulk sample phase this past winter. First Coal expects to continue its efforts to prevent predator access to the windswept ridges in the winter, increase the availability of terrestrial lichen on which the caribou feed during the early winter and monitor their movements within and adjacent to the Central South tenure area. First Coal also intends to continue its contribution to the regional caribou monitoring program and looks forward to participating in any partnerships or groups to help the caribou increase in numbers.

First Coal is committed to minimizing disturbance at Central South through a mining method utilizing the ADDCAR highwall miner, where trenches are backfilled and fully reclaimed over time. In addition, this mining method reduces the waste-to-coal ratio significantly when compared to traditional open pit mining. Once mining activities are completed, the goal is to ensure that the lichen habitat would be at least equal to the current foraging values on its site.

Background

  • First Coal's planned mining method reduces ground disturbance and noise levels compared to conventional open pit mining. By using this method, which incorporates the development of trenches and coal extraction using the ADDCAR Any Dip Highwall Mining System, land will be reclaimed as mining progresses throughout the mine's lifespan. With this technique, reclamation will occur earlier than when conventional open pit mining methods are employed, reducing disturbance to the caribou habitat.
  • First Coal has supported research at Central South by a University of Victoria Master's degree student in environmental studies into the restoration of terrestrial lichens for enhancing winter caribou habitat.
  • Signs of predators, other animals and humans are being documented.
  • The mitigation plan is being updated regularly to reflect new information from the monitoring process and the impact of infrastructure additions and future mine development or expansion.
  • First Coal has taken steps to increase employee and community awareness and understanding of the local caribou herd's habitat use, their distribution, movements and population dynamics.
  • Central South property development plans have been altered to protect woodland caribou. More than 10 km of access trails located within core winter and summer habitats have been closed. Exploration plans within the alpine and sub-alpine parkland habitats have been either deferred or abandoned altogether. Caribou have continued to use these areas over the past two years, indicating that these mitigation efforts are successful.
  • Operating structures have been located at lower elevations outside the core summer and winter range and early and late winter habitats.
  • First Coal has been surveying nearby habitats daily for caribou activity and for at least two hours before any blasting to ensure that animals are more than one km from blast areas. Observations of caribou indicate that they are remaining in and around the site throughout the past year of Bulk Sample activities and are not being disturbed from normal behaviours by blasting or construction activities.
  • Potential mineral licks have been identified and assessed as to their use. A 300-metre no-disturbance buffer is around the active licks and speed restrictions have been implemented. All licks continue to be monitored to determine their use and value to caribou.
  • First Coal has established a Burnt Pine Caribou Stewardship Group with the local First Nations to review monitoring results, assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures and suggest modifications to the mitigation and monitoring plan.

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