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Coal helps fuel the B.C. economy

Vancouver Sun - By Karina Briño

January 15,2013

Coal helps fuel the B.C. economy

Province produces the best steelmaking product in the world, proving a success story here and around the globe

Most of us know the important role that steel plays in our daily lives, whether it's the steel used to construct our homes, to make our household appliances, or to build the transit we ride to work. But what is not as well-known is that British Columbia's metallurgical coal - or steelmaking coal - plays a critical role in producing that steel.

Steelmaking coal is required for steel production, and B.C. has been producing among the best quality steelmaking coal in the world for decades. This quality product accounts for the vast majority of coal production in B.C. and has made our province one of the world's most important suppliers.

Recently there has been a lot of commentary around B.C.'s coal exports. It's important to understand how these exports are good for B.C. and the world. Steelmaking coal is a key economic driver in B.C., generating $5 billion in economic activity annually. The coal supply chain - from mining town to port city - is responsible for more than 26,000 jobs in B.C. in the mining, transportation, shipping and other related sectors. In fact, the average wage in this industry is $107,000, making coal mining one of the highest paying sectors in B.C. These are jobs that support families not just where coal is produced, but all along the rail line and in Metro Vancouver where hundreds work at coal handling facilities. Vancouver terminals have been responsibly handling coal for over 40 years. Today, coal is Port Metro Vancouver's principal export, accounting for about 25 per cent of the total value of exports each year.

The coal industry is also a major contributor to government revenues. In 2011, the industry directly contributed close to $400 million to the provincial government, helping to pay for critical programs and services, such as health care and education. The industry also invests millions directly into communities across our province in everything from community facilities to non-profit organizations to health care centres such as BC Children's Hospital.

This product is not only providing jobs and investment in B.C., it is also critical to building the infrastructure necessary for communities around the globe. In emerging economies, B.C.'s steelmaking coal is being used to build vital infrastructure, such as housing, hospitals, schools and rapid transit systems.

Our steelmaking coal exports are literally providing the materials needed to build a better quality of life for people all over the world.

Steelmaking coal is also an important part of building a greener economy. Steel, and the coal used to produce it, is required for clean power facilities such as hydroelectric dams, solar facilities and wind farms. Recent projects in B.C. demonstrate the importance of these products. For example, the amount of steel used in the new Canada Line rapid transit system connecting Richmond and Vancouver, which is estimated to eliminate 200,000 one-way car trips every day, would have required about 30,000 tonnes of steelmaking coal to make.

In the Northwest, BC Hydro is currently building a new 344-kilometre transmission line. That project will provide a reliable supply of clean power to new industrial projects and the community of Iskut, which currently relies on diesel generators. The amount of steel in that project requires over 8,000 tonnes of steelmaking coal.

Steelmaking coal is also required to produce many everyday items found around your home, such as appliances, bicycles and automobiles. In fact, the steel in the average car requires about 630 kilograms of steelmaking coal to produce.

Coal mining and transportation in B.C. is a modern, environmentally responsible industry that meets among the highest health, environmental and social standards in the world. The industry is at the forefront of environmental innovation and is continually improving its performance. Whether it's at the mine site, along the transportation corridor or at the terminals, extensive measures are taken to ensure the health and environment of our communities are protected.

B.C.'s steelmaking coal industry is a success story. From providing revenue to support critical government services, to creating family supporting jobs, to building infrastructure across the world, B.C.'s steelmaking coal industry is essential to a better quality of life both here and around the globe.