Updated May 2019
Figure S8.1 shows the historical and forecast for Alberta’s marketable coal production. Click on the figure to open it in Tableau.
Total production of marketable coal in 2018 decreased by 21.2 per cent (see Table S8.1 and Figure S8.1).
As shown in Figure S8.1, subbituminous coal was responsible for most of the decline in marketable clean coal production for the year. Of all the marketable coal produced in 2018,
- 82.4 per cent was subbituminous,
- 10.4 per cent was thermal bituminous, and
- 7.3 per cent was metallurgical bituminous.
Table S8.1 shows Alberta’s marketable coal production.
The majority of coal produced in Alberta is subbituminous coal. Production of subbituminous coal in 2018 decreased by an estimated 25.4 per cent to 15.9 megatonnes (Mt) in 2018 compared with 2017.
- Highvale mine: This mine was responsible for most of the decreased production. Several coal-fired power stations relying on production from this mine were either retired or trialling co-fired gas generation in 2018.
Forecast for 2019 to 2028
Production of subbituminous coal is expected to decline a further 57.9 per cent between 2019 and 2028. Companies are transitioning away from coal-fired power generation to coal-to-gas conversions due to higher carbon costs and lower electricity prices affecting economics.
Metallurgical Bituminous Coal
This type of coal is commonly called coking coal. Production of marketable metallurgical bituminous coal in 2018 increased, rising by 16.7 per cent from 2017 to 1.4 Mt.
Production at the following two mines in 2018 was as follows:
- Cheviot mine: Production at Teck Resources Limited’s (Teck’s) Cheviot mine was stable in 2018.
- Grande Cache Coal mine: This mine came under new ownership and restarted production in August 2018.
Thermal Bituminous Coal
Thermal bituminous coal is also known as steaming coal. Production of marketable thermal bituminous coal remained relatively unchanged between 2017 and 2018 at 2.0 Mt.
Forecast for 2019 to 2028
Despite a number of new bituminous mines applying for approvals the current forecast for total coal production is lower than it has been in previous years. With the retirement of coal-fired power generators, demand for subbituminous coal will decreaseand, therefore, total volumes produced. This decrease reflects announced retirements of coal-fired power generators and incorporates the Alberta Electric System Operator's forecast schedule.
Strong prices for both thermal and metallurgical coal have renewed an interest in new mines in Alberta. The AER has received several applications as a result. A number of projects to extract and export the province's coal are either currently pursuing drilling exploration programs or going through the regulatory approval process.
Table S8.2 lists the coal mines and marketable coal production.
Coal Project Overview
The following is a selected list of coal projects currently under exploration, development, or going through the regulatory approval process in Alberta.
- Coalspur Mines Limited: This company intends to commence operations at its Vista mine in 2019. Its Vista project previously received regulatory approvals in 2014 to construct, operate, and reclaim a coal mine site and associated infrastructure. It initially expects to produce around 6 Mt per year of raw thermal coal. It intends to eventually increase production to 12 Mt per year once fully operational. However, it applied in 2018 to decrease the amount of annual clean coal it expects to produce from 6.5 Mt to 5.2 Mt.
- Benga Mining Limited (Benga): This company is a subsidiary of Australia’s Riversdale Resources and has submitted an application for its Grassy Mountain mine. This mine would be located near Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta and initially produce 4.5 Mt per year of metallurgical coal. Pending regulatory approval, the company plans to begin construction in 2019 and begin operations by 2022.
In February 2019, Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd. (Hancock) announced an all cash deal worth Australian (AUS) $740 million in an attempt to buyout Riversdale. Hancock previously spent nearly AUS$70 million in August 2018 to support the early stage development of Grassy Mountain.
- Grande Cache Coal: Citing unfavourable market conditions for metallurgical coal, this company suspended operations at its surface mine in early 2015 and halted production from its underground mine in December 2015. Sonicfield Global received approval to purchase the Grande Cache Coal mine in January 2018 from China-based Up Energy Development Group Limited after the parent company defaulted on its debt payments and went into receivership at the beginning of 2017. The underground mine remains closed, but surface mining production at Grande Cache restarted in August 2018 after the deal closed in May.
- Ram River Coal Corporation: This company completed a technical evaluation of the in-place resource for its Aries metallurgical coal mine in April 2017. Subject to regulatory approval, the mine could commercially produce an estimated 4 Mt per year if the company proceeds with a commercial application.
- Atrum Coal Limited: This company completed testing and preliminary environmental studies for its Elan metallurgical coal project in 2017. After adding significant estimated resources in January 2019, it is considering advancing the project to become commercial. The project borders Benga’s pending Grassy Mountain mine. The company is looking to expand its exploration program in 2019.
Figure S8.2 shows the producing surface coal mines and coal-fired power plants in Alberta.