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VIEW: Coal is ‘critical’ to BC and world at large

Mar 29, 2013

Coal Alliance response to recent Tyee opinion-editorial


On behalf of the Coal Alliance, I would like to respond to the recently published op-ed titled “Like Whaling, BC’s coal industry is best put behind us”.

The article reveals an extreme agenda:  the complete elimination of our provincial coal industry – an agenda that would throw 26,000 British Columbians out of work, inflict huge damage to our economic recovery and turn entire communities into ghost towns.

Let’s put a few things into perspective.  Coal is critical to the world at large, whether to produce steel or as an energy source. And as the world’s population grows – it’s predicted to reach 9 billion people by 2050 – coal will continue to play an indispensible role in sustaining that growth.

Most of the coal that’s mined in BC and shipped to global markets is steelmaking coal.  Around the world, demand for steel is increasing as developing countries grow their economies and lift people out of poverty.

Demand is also increasing in developed countries, as cities like Vancouver and Surrey consider proposals for more rapid transit and high density housing.  All these projects require huge amounts of steel which, in turn, require huge amounts of steelmaking coal.  And BC is lucky to have some of the best steelmaking coal in the world.

Let’s not forget that some 40% of the world’s population depends on thermal coal to produce the electricity that lights their homes and powers their communities. While China is the world’s biggest consumer, other developed and developing nations continue to rely on coal for energy as well. Countries like Japan, South Korea, India, South Africa, the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and France to name a few.

It should also be noted, however, that the next generation coal plants – like those we are seeing in China today – are among the cleanest, most technologically advanced in the world and are quickly replacing older facilities.

It’s also clear that as the private and public sectors continue to innovate and ramp up research into cleaner energy solutions, coal will continue to be an essential part of that equation.  Anyone who’s seen that wind turbine on top of Grouse Mountain may be interested to know that about 100 tonnes of steel making coal goes into the construction of an average wind turbine.  In fact, virtually every type of green technology requires steel.  And if it has steel in it, steelmaking coal was required to make it.

Shutting down BC’s coal industry and wiping out thousands of well paying local jobs would do absolutely nothing to change that reality. We need steel and we need electricity and coal plays a key role in producing both.

B.C.’s coal industry also meets some of the highest safety and environmental standards in the world. The people who work in the mines, along the railways and at terminals are proud to provide a product that is building a better quality of life for people around the world.

So what are the people advocating BC’s coal industry be shut down really saying?  That 40% of the world’s population should live without electricity, that we should stop using steel and that 26,000 people should be put out work? That’s a reckless approach that would unnecessarily sentence millions to hardship and poverty.  Every day we all benefit from the products coal makes possible – medical equipment, homes, schools, transit and electricity.

The coal industry has been a proud, vital and sustainable part of BC’s economy for decades.  And will be for many more to come.


– Alan Fryer is with the Coal Alliance, which brings together representatives from the coal industry, including mines, marine terminals, railways, industry associations, organized labour and others who support the mining and shipping of coal in British Columbia.



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