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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.

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