September 11th and 12th, 2019 saw over 100 delegates attend the 14th Annual Northeast BC Coal & Energy Forum in Tumbler Ridge. This annual event is co-hosted by Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd and alternates between the two Districts. This two-day event is spearheaded by our team here at Invest Tumbler Ridge – with the District of Tumbler Ridge’s Economic Development department taking the lead on planning the Forum. We hosted over 100 attendees from across the region, province, country and even the USA.
What is the Coal & Energy Forum?
This annual forum is an opportunity for industry influencers and decision makers, ministers, First Nations, contractors, educators, graduates and students to network, share ideas, learn and grow. This year’s Forum also focused on discussing the varied and sometimes hidden career opportunities to be had in the energy and resource sectors.
Our focus for 2019 was the ‘Challenges of Change’; a theme that explored how industry challenges within the renewable energy, Liquefied Natural Gas and metallurgical coal mining sectors are changing work practices and creating diverse and exciting career and workforce development opportunities. Our objective is to encourage education and training institutions to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of industry. Furthermore, to keep their education and training courses relevant to the realities, needs and emerging opportunities within the sector.
Exploring the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark
During the first day of the Forum, delegates took in the natural splendor of Tumbler Ridge. Helicopter and jet boat tours were available to places of interest around the area. The Wild River Adventure Tours jet boat trip up the Murray River to Kinuseo Falls is always a favorite! Ridge Rotor’s provided exciting helicopter tours that included amazing views of Tumbler Ridge, the Murray River, Flatbed Falls, Shipyard-Titanic, as well the Quintette and Peace River Coal mines. We also provided tours to Conuma Coal’s Wolverine metallurgical coal mine and the Meikle Wind Project.
The evening concluded with a special dinner at Club 55 North celebrating the positive interrelationship between our Geopark and our resource industries. After dinner there was an evening lantern tour to the Wolverine dinosaur trackway nearby led by the great staff from the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery.
Engaging Presentations & Great Networking Opportunities at the Forum
Following a great start to the Forum in Tumbler Ridge, the conference portion of the Forum began on Thursday morning. The conference included information sessions, a trade show and key note speakers.
The day began with an exciting presentation from keynote speaker Bill Tam (VP Business Development and Partnerships – Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster). After that delegates heard from Reise O’Hara (Director of Government Relations the Coal Association of Canada), followed by an update on the BC Mining Jobs Task Force from Tumbler Ridge Mayor Keith Bertrand. After that, John Schadan (President – Conuma Coal Resources Ltd) gave an update on the company and their three metallurgical coal operations near Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd. Conuma Coal is the currently the only company actively mining coal in the region. Following Mr.Shadan, Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman gave an update on the Liquefied Natural Gas sector.
The afternoon portion of the Forum began with presentations focused on the clean energy sector from David Dodge (Green Energy Futures) followed by Martin Mullany (Clean Energy BC). The first panel discussion of the day then took place with a focus on education and the evolving needs of the energy and resource sectors, moderated by event MC Sherri-Lynn Hewitt (Careers Coordinator at Tumbler Ridge Secondary School. The panelists included Brian Buckley (BCIT), Lisa Verbisky (NLC), Dr. Lisa Wood (UNBC) and Mike Readman (School District #59). The conference concluded with a panel that focused on the regional caribou issues moderated by Mayor Lori Ackerman. The panelists were Blair Lekstrom (Community Liaison to the Premier), Tumbler Ridge Mayor Keith Bertrand, Clarence Willson (West Moberly First Nations), and Archie MacDonald (COFI).
Getting Students Involved
The day following the Forum, Invest Tumbler Ridge and Tumbler Ridge Secondary School hosted a career exploration event for students with many of the speakers from the Coal & Energy Forum in attendance. The main objective of this event was to provide students with an opportunity to meet with coal and energy sector industry leaders allowing them an opportunity to hear about the diversity of career opportunities within the sector. These help steer them towards the types of further education or training that would help them achieve their career goals. The day was a great success and we will definitely aim to add this beneficial event to future Forums!
Next year’s Forum will be held in Chetwynd, BC – stay tuned for dates and details on our website www.coalforum.ca