What about B.C.’s thermal coal?

Mining at Line Creek mine, Elk River coalfield (Teck Coal Limited), southeastern B.C. Teck Photo



Liberal leader Christy Clark is continuing her ‘get tough’ stance with the U.S. over softwood lumber tariffs, vowing to stop the shipment of thermal coal through British Columbia if the federal government doesn’t.

“Ideally, the federal government will act on our request to ban thermal coal in our ports – but if they don’t, British Columbia will charge a carbon levy on it,” said Clark in a press release this week.  “By doing so, British Columbia will establish the world’s first greenhouse gas benchmark for thermal coal – and make it uncompetitive to ship through B.C. ports.”

Should the federal government not implement a thermal coal ban, a re-elected BC Liberal government will develop regulations under the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act to ensure all thermal coal shipped to B.C. terminals is subject to a carbon price – approximately $70 per tonne – that reflects the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the extraction, processing, transportation and combustion of thermal coal through a B.C. terminal, according to a Liberal press release.

“Banning thermal coal is the right thing to do for BC LNG and biomass producers who can help fill the need for cleaner energy in Asia,” said Clark. “And now is the right time to do it, because while good trading partners cooperate, the United States has launched this unfair assault against key sectors of our economy and the workers they employ.”

The move would also affect B.C. coal producers, assuming it is applied to all coal production. The Liberal press release states the “vast majority” of British Columbia coal is metallurgical coal.

According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, between 70 and 90 per cent of coal mined in B.C. is metallurgical coal.

According to the Coal Association of Canada, approximately 36 million tonnes of thermal coal was produced in Canada in 2012.  The association also states the vast majority of Canadian thermal coal produced is used domestically, meaning it would likely escape the carbon price Clark would impose as the levy would apply to coal shipped through ports.

According to the Liberal press release, last year, 6.6 million tonnes of thermal coal was exported through B.C. ports, 94 per cent from the United States. The remaining six per cent, 396,000 tonnes, was B.C. thermal coal. According to the ministry, the price for thermal coal at the end of 2016 was $107/tonne, meaning the levy proposed by Clark would affect just over $42 million in B.C. thermal coal exports.

The only strictly thermal coal mine in B.C. is the Quinsam Mine which was shut down a couple of years ago and has not re-opened. Most coal mines produce metallurgical, thermal, and coal used for a process called pulverized coal injection.

  • rigormortice

    If she stops the export of thermal coal through Canadian ports all she will do in cost BC a lot of jobs. This coal will then move through US Ports or it will not move at all.

    The idea that little Christy Clark during a BC election will effect how China burns coal or how the USA ships coal is ludicrous.

    Even if she could make an effect by stopping the export of coal through BC Ports, she still does not have any LNG plants that are built or even starting to build so it would be years before we could expect any LNG to actually be exported. By that time the USA will have a corner on LNG exports as they already have some plants up and running and are building more..

    At the end of the day I expect that we will be exporting natural gas to the USA and they will be shipping it through their LNG plants to world markets.

    This thermal coal issue is all about getting re elected, and has nothing to do with reality.

  • Jo G

    It has already taken many years for coal to move through USA’s northern coastal ports. They were projecting to move coal through Gateway Pacific Terminals north of Bellingham by 2017. Bellingham City Council did not support that.

    In May 2016, the US Army Corp of Engineers rejected a permit for the proposed coal port at Cherry Point. They ruled the project would impact the treaty-protected fishing rights of Lummi Nation based on the fact that the proposed trestle and associated wharf would take up 122 acres over water.

    Washington State is very protective of its waterfront. Something BC can learn from them.

    So, it will be a long time before US Coal from the north central/west part of the US will be moving through their own ports.

    As far as the current BC Government goes, I am sure they know exactly what the US dilemma is.

    Maybe it is even a situation of pulling out some armour with respect to NAFTA and the softwood lumber agreement. We hold some cards in that agreement.

    • rigormortice

      All these trade deals are negotiated by the Federal Government. Christy can put on some sort of carbon levy, however that’s about it. The Federal Government owns Ridley Island coal terminal in Prince Rupert, This facility exported roughly 16 Million tonnes of thermal coal since 2010, from Canadian and USA origins. Christy is pandering to the voters in the Greater Vancouver area, at the expense of jobs for those who work in Prince Rupert. (Whats new)

      In any event I would expect that once the election is over we will be hearing very little on this subject.