Mining has served Roy Ludwig well.
So well, in fact, that he’s stayed in the mining industry for 45 years, despite now being the mayor of Estevan.
“It’s a great-paying job,” said Ludwig.
But now, Ludwig faces a challenge. He must lead the transition of an era that will soon render his life’s work obsolete.
“Coal is very important to the City of Estevan. It’s been a part of our community since the turn of the century. Since the 1800s we were mining coal in various amounts,” Ludwig said. “But our industry is under siege.”
In 2018, the federal government announced coal-fired electricity will be phased out by 2030, leaving many communities — whose economies are reliant on coal — wondering what their futures hold.
About 600 people in southeast Saskatchewan are expected to be out of work due to the phase-out. Between Estevan and Coronach, three power stations and several coal mines will be closed by the end of the decade.
“It’s tough. It’s astonishing,” said Mayor of Coronach Trever Schnell. “Morale is coming down. There’s not much future.”
Schnell said over 50 houses are currently up for sale in his town of around 600 people.
“People are already leaving, obviously for their future,” Schnell said.
Population projections for the town of Coronach and the RM of Hart Butte include a 42 per cent population loss by 2036 and an additional population loss of 25 per cent by 2041, says a city report.
“We have a tough road ahead,” Ludwig said. “The economics will definitely come to bear.”
Both Estevan and Coronach are now looking to transition workers into other industries so that their families can remain in the area and businesses can keep their doors open.
A report from the Town of Coronach found that agribusiness, tourism, power generation and resource development could be a huge economic driver for the region, while the City of Estevan is considering investing in carbon-capturing technology and small modular reactor technology.
On Friday, Premier Scott Moe arrived in Estevan to announce $10 million in funding to help the two communities with their transition — $8 million for Estevan and $2 million for Coronach.
Last year, the federal government also committed $1.2 million to help Saskatchewan phase out coal and to bring more renewable alternatives.
“The business, families and workers in this region have been with Saskatchewan for decades. My pledge is we will be with you and there for you in the years ahead. We will do everything to ensure this region moves forward,” Moe said.
Estevan is often referred to as Saskatchewan’s Energy City as it has powered the province for the most of the century. On Friday, Moe promised it will continue to be a part of the industry.
While both Ludwig and Schnell understand it won’t be easy to fill hundreds of jobs within their communities, they know they need to start now.
“There’s no big corporation that’s probably going to land on our doorstep with hundreds of jobs. It will be incremental, probably a few jobs at a time, and we’ll be building our way,” Ludwig said.
“Let’s start off small,” added Schnell. “Ten jobs, 15 jobs, and we’ll keep going from there.”