Coal in Canada

Coal Production42.5Mtoe per year

Coal Recoverable Reserves4.61thousand Mtoe

Coal Recoverable Reserves

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Coal is by far Canada’s most abundant fossil fuel, with 6.6 billion tonnes of recoverable coal reserves.  Canada has anthracite, bituminous, sub-bituminous, lignite coal deposits.  More than 90% of Canada’s coal deposits are located in western provinces which provide a strategic advantage because of the close proximity of west coast ports.

Canadian coal production has been around 60 million tonnes over the last decade however in 2012 coal production increased to 67 million tonnes. 38 million tonnes (56%) was thermal coal produced mainly in the prairies and 29 million tonnes was metallurgical (steel-making) coal, produced in Western Alberta and B.C.

To meet its rapid infrastructure growth and consumer demand for things such as vehicles and home appliances, Asia has turned to Canada for its high-quality steel-making coal. As Canada’s largest coal trading partner, coal exports to Asia accounted for 73% of total exports in 2010.

40% of the coal produced in Canada is exported. In 2010, exports totalled 33 million tonnes, a 22% increase from the previous year. The majority of the coal exported was steel-making coal.

The Canadian WEC Member Committee has reported the following estimates of recoverable reserves (in millions of tonnes), as provided by Natural Resources Canada: bituminous coals (including anthracite) 3 474; sub-bituminous grades 872; and lignite 2 236. The corresponding amounts of coal remaining in place from which these tonnages could be extracted are (respectively) 4 651, 3 430 and   13 941 million tonnes.

Estimates of the remaining tonnages of coal in place that are considered to be additional to the ‘proved’ or ‘measured’ amounts of each rank total more than 300 billion tonnes. Within this enormous in situ figure, remaining discovered resources add up to 176.5 billion tonnes, of which ‘probable/indicated’ resources total 50.6 billion tonnes and ‘possible/inferred’ 125.9 billion. Undiscovered resources (‘hypothetical/speculative’) are estimated to add another 126 billion. While these figures are necessarily highly approximate, they do serve to underline Canada’s massive coal endowment.

Around 88% of Canadian coal consumption is used for electricity generation, 7% in the steel industry and 5% in other industries. Alberta is the largest coal-consuming province, Ontario the second. Ontario and Nova Scotia rely on coal imports.

The Canadian coal industry is privately owned. Output is mainly from surface mines: there are two operating underground mines, Campbell River, British Columbia and Grande Cache, Alberta. Production from these operations is relatively small, about 1 million tonnes of coal annually. The potential exists to reopen the underground mine at the Donkin coal resource in Nova Scotia.