The thermal room-and-pillar operation in Campbell River, in operation since 1987, will be placed into care and maintenance and its workforce of 66 will be “reduced significantly,” the privately held company said.

“Due to a prolonged and steep decline in thermal coal prices, changes in market demand and policy disincentives, Quinsam Coal cannot operate economically and will suspend coal production indefinitely,” officials said.

Hillsborough CEO David Turnbull told local media that coal shipments would continue from its inventory to fulfill contracts this year. He did not identify a timeline for the mine’s sale or potential buyers.

“There may be certain parties that are more interested in a mine that’s in suspension than ongoing operations in an environment like this, so they have the option of bringing it up when the market improves…and there is cyclicality, clearly,” he said.

Quinsam, which first began operations as an open-pit mine in 1986, primarily serves the cement industry. It is the fifth British Columbia coal operation in two years to close.

It was Hillsborough’s only active mine, as its Echo Hill project was put on hold.