ElkValley-84

Coal

Historically Canada has been a significant producer and consumer of coal. That’s changed over the last decade; production peaked in 1997 at about 78 million tonnes.

The vast majority — about 85 per cent — of Canada’s coal is mined in B.C. and Alberta.

The number one use of coal in Canada is for electricity. However, in 2016 the federal government announced a plan to phase out the use of coal-powered electricity by 2030. In 2003 Ontario announced a plan to eliminate coal-fired power plants by 2014.

In 2015 Alberta announced a plan to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030 to keep in line with federal targets.

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As countries around the world look to reduce greenhouse gas emission and air pollution, worldwide demand for thermal coal — used in power plants — is diminishing. However the demand for metallurgical coal — used to make steel and cement — has remained steady. That’s feeding growth at some of B.C.’s largest mines, such as those in the Elk Valley. Canada is the world’s third-largest exporter of metallurgical coal after the U.S. and Australia.

In the spring of 2020, the Alberta government rolled back protections that had prevented open-pit coal mining across parts of the Rocky Mountains and Foothills since 1976. In March 2022, the province reversed course and announced a ban on new coal projects in the eastern slopes of the Rockies — but there are still plenty of things that haven’t changed since that March announcement.

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