March 2022
Although Canada is currently one the most important metallurgical coal suppliers in the global market, in 1976 the province of Alberta established a policy for the development of its coal resources based on the principle that the people of Alberta own this resource.

This policy included a land use classification system, and it divided the province into four categories which determined where, and how, exploration and development projects should be in order to maintain strict environmental protections in the region.

In June 2020, in an attempt to align coal management, including an update of the leasing processes, the government decided to rescind the policy. However, this change let a gap of clarity in terms of protection of the land. As a result, population from Alberta raised its concerns about the potential coal development projects on sensitive lands. In response of the raised concerns made by Albertans, the government decided to reinstate the coal development policy for Alberta in February 2021.

As a part of the reinstatement, restrictions were reinforced by providing direction to Alberta Energy Regulator. Those restrictions include the prohibition to remove any mountain - top and future coal exploration approvals for parts of the Southern Rocky Mountains and Foothills will be prohibited and will be subject to consultation on a new coal policy.

Therefore, all coal exploration and development projects from now on will be subject to a review process made by Alberta Energy Regulator, and it will be based on economic, social, and environmental impact of each project.


Impact of Alberta Mining Ban

Alberta energy minister announced the reception of the final report from the committee in charged to make recommendations about the managing of coal projects for Alberta.

Through these recommendations, the province of Alberta would do an advance in the process to directions given to Alberta Energy Regulator in terms of approval of exploration programs made during the period in which the coal development policy was rescinded.



Grassy Mountain Project Rejection

Benga Mining, company subsidiary of Riverdale Resources, submitted an application for a mine permit which includes an open-cut mine, three rock disposal areas and approval for the construction and operation of a coal handling preparation plant as part of the Grassy Mountain Coal Project.

The Federal Minister of Environment and Climate and the Alberta Energy Regulator review panel rejected Benga Mining application under the Coal Conservation Act. The review panel decided the project was not in the public interest due to significant environmental effects on surface water quality and adverse impact on physical and cultural heritage on First Nations.

However, Benga Mining along with two First Nations groups, applied for a permission to appeal the provision component of the Joint Review Panel (JPR) decision. As a result, the Federal Government of Canada along with the JPR denied the approval the project due to the likely negative impact on the immediate environment. Benga Mining expressed its discontent with the decision taken and did appeal to the Alberta Court. As it was expected, Alberta Court rejected the miner’s turning Grassy Mountain project unlikely to be developed.

The proposed project was located in the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, Canada. The project was proposed to be an open-cut metallurgical coal mine with a production capacity of 4.8Mt over a 25 year mine life. High quality metallurgical coal from Grassy Mountains would have been shipped to customers in the Asian market. The project was intended to start construction in 2021 and commence coal production in 2023.


Hope for Elan Coking Coal Project

Atrum Coal, 100% owner of Elan hard coking coal project, had to pause its prefeasibility study due to the reinstitution of the coal development policy of Alberta.  However, taking account the Benga Mining case, which ended with the non-approval permits to develop Grassy Mountain Coal project, Atrum will work on the lessons learned from this case and it is committed to work with the Indigenous and local community stakeholders to improve the environment and socio-economic conditions for Elan project.

Elan hard coking coal project is located in the Crowsnest Pass area of southern Alberta, Canada. The project is expected to produce 6Mt of medium volatile hard coking coal for export to the Asian market.


Canada Benefited from China’s Ban on Australian Coal Market

Canadian metallurgical coal exports have resulted benefited from the ongoing restrictions over the Australian coal exports imposed by China in 2020. With Chinese government still standing on its position of not showing any sign to lift restrictions over the Australian metallurgical coal supply market, Canadian hard coking coal export volumes to China have increased from 4.7Mt in 2020 to 9.3Mt in 2021. This represents and increase up by 97.9% in the last year.

Canada’s coking coal supply is likely to drop from an estimated 32.2Mt in 2022 to 29.9Mt by 2024 due to current mining coal policy and mine approvals in the main producing provinces. Considering Canada has new projects upside potential in the middle term, AME forecasts Canadian metallurgical coal export to reach 33.5Mt by 2030, followed by a drop to 28.8Mt, down by 14% in 2040.



Australian miner Allegiance Coal Limited which focuses its operations on metallurgical coal projects has pointed a development project in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Telkwa metallurgical coal mine is an open- cut project which is aimed to produce 1.4Mt annually for over a 25 year mine life.  The project is constituted by three main deposits - Tenas, Goathom and Telkwa North. 

Telkwa Coal, subsidiary of Allegiance Coal Limited announced in late February 2022, the application for Environmental Assessment Certificate for this coking coal project in Canada. The application was filed to the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (BC-EAO) who will now conduct the review process. According to this, Allegiance Coal Limited estimates to commence operations at Telkwa coal mine in 2023. The metallurgical coal produced from the said mine is expected to be shipped for export most likely to the Asian region.