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Chamber members updated about TeckPosted: May 20, 2012

The region’s largest employer is going to remain an economic force in the East Kootenay and the world during the next few years.

Teck Coal Ltd. manager of Community Affairs and Aboriginal Affairs Nic Milligan addressed Fernie Chamber of Commerce members May 17 during their monthly luncheon meeting, held at the Bridge Bistro (pictured above).

“It’s been a banner year for our organization,” Milligan said, for both company revenues and safety for employees.

Teck remains the largest diversified mining company in Canada, he said, noting it is the third largest zinc producer in the world and, specifically to the Elk Valley, it is still the largest producer of metallurgical coal in North America and the second largest producer of seaborne steel-making coal in the world.

Milligan said Teck realized “record revenues” last year, with $11.5 billion. It also established records for gross profits ($5.8 billion) and revenue for shareholders ($2.7 billion).

The 321,000 tonnes of copper produced last year was also a company record, he said, adding the companies throughput of zinc was also a record.

Teck, with a 55% expansion in coal reserves (to one billion tones), has 100 years of coal resources, Milligan told the chamber gathering, after first noting information he was providing information about some things that “may or may not happen” with a semi-comedic flare.

Last year also saw the launch of a new sustainable strategy looking at six key focus areas, he said, listing: “water, energy, ecosystem and biodiversity, materials and stewardship of our people. Weère making these commitments real. It’s a very exciting time in the company.”

Related to the sustainability approach is a regional committee that Milligan has struck, feature regional residents and First Nations. The purpose of the committee is “to see how we can work more effectively with communities in the future,” he said.

While the past year was a great success for Teck, the next one may be even better, Milligan suggested.

“We have continued strong demand for our products,” he said, pointing at China’s expected seven per cent Gross Domestic Product growth for the next five years. Transmission lines and highway infrastructure projects are a-plenty in the worldès most populous nation and it needs steel.

Milligan said Teck expects a 10% increase at its six coal mines in the next year, including the five in the Elk Valley. Annual coal production is expected to rise to 30 million tones and Teck’s copper production will double in the next five years.

And it is expected that the Quintette Mine at Tumbler Ridge “will become a viable operation again” because of world demand for coal. The company expects to spend $340 million on upgrades at the northeast mine, but all of Teckès mines have been receiving upgrades.

“Almost everyone of them have had upgrades in the last few years,” he said.

New jobs are going to be created by the company in the upcoming few years, keeping pace with recent activity.

The company currently employees 4,300 in its coal workforce and it expects to hire 1,500 more in the next three years,  with 500 jobs becoming available again at Tumbler Ridge, with an expected 12 year lifespan.

However, many of the ènewè jobs are coming open due to attrition and retirement, Milligan said, explaining itès part of the Èdemographic bubbleÈ as the large Baby Boomer generation fades into the golden years.

The bulk of the jobs will be entry-level positions, he added.

Teck continues to give back to its East Kootenay communities, Milligan told the approximately 40 chamber members, with $2.7 million invested in 2011 in “projects across the region.”

The company currently employees about 1,200 workers from Fernie, Elkford, Sparwood and elsewhere in the Elk Valley. Additionally, about 450 workers come from Crowsnest Pass and many others commute from Cranbrook, Lethbridge and other locales, Milligan said.

Answering a question about where Teck expects to get employees from, as asked by Fernie Chamber manager Rachel Bone, Milligan admitted, “that’s an ongoing discussion.”

However, being able to advertise the regions abundant natural beauty and lifestyle, helps he said.

“It’s stable employment and also an excellent lifestyle,” he said.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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