The Vancouver Sun

Monday January 20, 1992

Sun Provincial Reporter-Larry Pynn

Mining Firm wrestles with debts

Cassiar- This asbestos mining community of 1,100 risks becoming a "ghost town virtually over-night" unless the B.C. cabinet endorses a $13-million bailout of Cassiar Mining Corp.

"The future of Cassiar is in the balance," said company finances Vice-president Tony Kana in an interview with the Sun. "The decision will affect everyone."

Cassiars debts exceed $57 million, according to documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court, and the company requires the $13 million provincial loan to slave off bankruptcy and mine closure. A cabinet decision is expected Wednesday after a report on the mines viability by the Job Protection Commission.

"Theyre in trouble and we take it very seriously," confirmed David Zirnhelt, minister of economic development, small business and trade. "We stand behind the people up there and well give it our best shot."

But he stressed cabinet cannot throw away taxpayers money on a losing proposition. "What the government is concerned about in these situations is whether the money invested is returned. We have to look at all the costs."

Cassiar will become a "ghost town virtually over-night," the company warns, with termination of "all essential services."

Founded in 1953 in the remote Cassiar Mountains of northwest B.C., about 100 km south of the Yukon border, Cassiar is a one-industry town, the only asbestos mine in western Canada. The town consists of a 250-student school with 15 teachers and 9 support staff, a hospital with 8 staff, a Royal Bank of Canada branch, a department store, an RCMP detachment with 2 members, a post office, travel agency, liquor store and various government agencies and small businesses. The company provides electricity, water, sewage, street maintenance, fire protection and recreation facilities - a swimming pool, ice rink, curling rink, and ski hill.

Contributed by Simone Rowlinson


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