Coalspur’s Vista project

Will it be the biggest in North America?

by Lisa Crane
Aerial photo of Hinton plant location.

Aerial photo of Hinton plant location. — Photo courtesy Ryan Walchuck

Vista could potentially be the biggest export thermal coal mine in North America. The project is spearheaded by Coalspur Mines Ltd, a coal exploration and development company with offices in both Canada and Australia. Vista covers about 10,000 hectares of mineable coal development and is situated close to Canadian National Railway’s main line near Hinton, Alberta. In 2013, Coalspur successfully secured a funding arrangement with EIG Global Energy Partners (EIG) for the majority of the development costs of the first phase of Vista.

Unique opportunity

Ryan Walchuck,  media and investor relations for Coalspur, said that Vista is a tremendous project and a rare opportunity.

“It is not often there is a chance to find a resource so close to infrastructure that would enable a team to construct ultimately a 12 million tonne-per-annum mine for less than one billion dollars,” said Walchuck. “Vista presents an opportunity to be a low-cost, high-quality producer that will be well positioned to deliver into the Asian premium markets.”

Walchuck said that Coalspur's current goals are to successfully complete its strategic review process. This entails exploring a range of strategic alternatives to ensure the company’s repayments to EIG at the end of March 2015, to enhance the value of Vista and to maximize value for all of their stakeholders.

In light of this, he said strategies the company is considering, but isn't limited to, range from fully funding the Vista project, a refinancing of EIG and/or recapitalization of the company, forming a joint venture, or merger or selling all or a part of the company’s assets. The construction schedule and hence production timing is linked to the full  funding of Vista, said Walchuck.

“Furthermore,” said Walchuck, “Vista has been significantly de-risked with Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) approval and successfully reaching agreement with all First Nation interveners in the permitting process for phase one.”

New services

With the selection of Sedgman Ltd. as the preferred supplier of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services, Coalspur has locked in plant construction costs and a cemented competitive cost position with Australian company Thiess as the selected mining contractor.

Walchuck said that Sedgman is the market leader in the design, construction and operation of coal handling and preparation plants in the global coal industry, having delivered 130 EPC capital projects around the world since 1979.

“Their company is considered the leading innovator in coal processing technology, and they also operate facilities that produce a total of 25 million tonnes per year,” said Walchuck.

What's next?

Coalspur will not start construction of Vista this year, given the time it has taken to advance both final permits, licences and full financing for Vista phase one, said Walchuck. However, they will continue to add value to the project by finalizing their phase on licenses and permits and their agreements with Sedgman and Thiess. Next will be their delivery of an updated life-of-mine plan, continued development of phase two engineering and mine planning as well as preparation for any future regulatory submission and an updated Bankable Feasibility Study.

Coalspur’s CEO, Gill Winckler  will be attending the Coal Association of Canada's 2014 Conference and Trade Show in September. Walchuck appreciates the opportunity to stay connected to the industry and the company's peers in Canada.

“It is a good way to gain insights to the expectations for the future of the sector,” said Walchuck.

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