Coal is no longer an old and dying industry

Naomi Larsen, Chetwynd Echo Editor
 

Ann Marie Hann.
Photo Credit: Chetwynd Echo

 
Coal has always been thought of as an old and dying industry, but Ann Marie Hann, President of the Coal Association of Canada, believes things are changing.
 
Hann spoke at the eighth annual Northeast BC Community Coal & Energy Forum held in Chetwynd two weeks ago, and said the conference’s theme Coal for the Future was very fitting.
“There is a view out there that coal…is part of the past and that it doesn’t have a role to play in our future,” she said. “But I believe Canada’s most abundant mineral resource—coal—needs to be part of the domestic energy mix and also contribute to our international trade balance through exports.”
 
Hann said Canada has more than six billion tons of recoverable coal reserves – enough to support 100 years of production at current rates.
 
“And it’s believed there is further 190billion tons of coal,” she said.
 
“That vast resource offers us all a great opportunity for economic wealth and energy security.”
 
Hann said the coal industry understands the importance of managing the environment stating they are ever mindful of their social license, commitments and obligations.
 
“With industry and community partnerships like the ones developed here in this region there is every reason to be confident of a very bright and prosperous future for everyone working in or associated with the coal industry.”
 
Hann said one of the ways of enhancing the dialogue on coal was the creation of a national economic study of the industry.
 
The study covered areas such as Gross Domestic Product, employment, tax revenues and wages was gathered from a variety of sources including mining companies, Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
 
“There are currently 23 producing mines in Canada: 10 in BC, nine in Alberta, three in Saskatchewan and one in Nova Scotia,” she said.
 
Out of the 23, ten produce metallurgical and 13 produce thermal or steam for power generation. Each year Canada produces over 60 million tones. Of this Hann said 38 million tones is thermal coal. The remaining 29 million tones is metallurgical.
 
“The vast majority of thermal coal is used within Canada itself for power generation,” she said, adding steel-making coal is exported.
 
“While production buy-ins have remained relatively constant over the years the total value of coal production in Canada reached $7billion in  2011—a historical record showing a three-fold increase from the $1.6-billion produced 10 years ago.”
 
Hann said the report further discovered that coal mining industry delivers more economic and social benefits than ever before contributing an estimating $5.2-billion to Canada’s GDP last year.
 
Despite the recent decline in coal prices globally, Hann said recovery is well on its way to rebound.
 
“Increased demand in metallurgical coal … coupled with rising energy prices have resulted in revenue growing at an annual average rate of 15 percent each year for the last 10 years,” she said. “Capital investment grows each year by 20 percent on average.”
 
In terms of employment, the report also noted significant levels of employment stating more than 42,000 people are either directly or indirectly employed thanks to the coal industry. That number includes those who work in production, construction, exploration, transportation, reclamation and those who supply goods and services to the industry. Hann also stated coal industry salaries are more than double the national average with rates increasing 37 percent over the past 10 years.
 
Hann said the economic impact is an additional $700-million which helps support the country’s infrastructure, roads, hospitals and schools. Locally, companies assist, support and donate to the local economies by sponsoring local sports teams, clubs and events, including the International Chainsaw Carving Championship and the Emperer’s Challenge.
 
“The people of Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge know first-hand that coal supports jobs, opportunity, economic development and of course community investment,” she said. 
 
The study is available online at the Coal Association’s website at www.coal.ca “We believe that a better understanding of the industry, how we operate and how we contribute to Canada’s economic and social well being will lead to informed decision making and less misinformation,” Hann said.