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Vista coal mine to employ 1,000, Coalspur CEO says

Demand for thermal coal, used in power generation, is ravenous in Asia.

YUSUF AHMAD/REUTERS

Coalspur Mines Ltd.'s flagship Vista coal mine is expected to employ about 1,000 people in Hinton, Alta., once it reaches full capacity in 2018, the company's CEO said Monday.

"Obviously for a town of 10,000 people that's big news," Gene Wusaty said in an interview.

Coalspur has had an office in the town, about 290 kilometres west of Edmonton, for a few years, in addition to offices in Calgary and in Perth, Australia.

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"Hinton's a resource town. Coal has been in their blood for about 100 years," Mr. Wusaty said.

Oil and gas development and forestry are also important to the local economy.

Some construction jobs are expected in 2013 and 2014 while the mine is being built. The project's first phase is set to begin production in early 2015, reaching full capacity of 11.2 million tonnes a year in 2018.

On Sunday, Coalspur released the results of a bankable feasibility study, an economic analysis that helps banks decide whether to finance major projects.

The price tag to getting to full production is expected to be more than $1.2-billion, but Coalspur said cash flows from initial operations of the mine could cut estimated peak funding to $894-million.

Between a pre-feasibility study in late 2010 and the latest one, estimates of annual marketable coal production increased by 24 per cent.

"The Vista project that we're developing, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and it's going to be a world-class operation," Mr. Wusaty said.

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Coal from Vista will be transported by rail to the port of Prince Rupert, B.C., and then shipped to Asia by sea.

Demand for thermal coal, used in power generation, is ravenous in Asia.

"The thermal coal seaborne trade is growing at about 8 per cent per year. It's booming, and it's primarily in Asia," Mr. Wusaty said.

There has been much focus on growing world demand for metallurgical coal, used to make steel, like that produced by Vancouver mining giant Teck Resources Ltd.

Mr. Wusaty said people often forget that Canada has been exporting thermal coal for decades. For instance, Sherritt International has long sold ore from its Obed and Coal Valley mines in Alberta on the world market.

"China and India are going through the biggest industrial revolution the world's ever seen, and it's driven by coal," he said.

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"The demand is there and the demand is growing."

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