Asian Pacific Post – India hunts for coal in BC
India has announced that it is exploring options for sourcing coal from British Columbia, including equity participation in assets and acquisition of mines just as Vancouver city council voted to ban the handling, storage and trans shipment of coal at its marine terminals and berths.
The ban, mostly symbolic, was passed as Port Metro Vancouver, the No. 2 exporter of coal in North America triggered controversy over planned expansion of its facilities. Vancouver city council has no jurisdiction over the port operations.
Even before the ink was dry on the 9 to 2 vote which aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions and set the air quality target to “breath the cleanest air of any major city in the world”, a high powered delegation from India met with British Columbia Premier Christy Clark to scour for coal resources.
The Indian delegation was led by Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma who is looking to feed India’s steel industry which is growing at a fast pace and needs additional quantities of coking coal.
“The delegation held a series of discussions with the coal asset owners and various avenues for sourcing coking coal to India to meet its ever-growing requirement were discussed,” an official statement said.
Verma had detailed talks with Clark in Vancouver, according to the statement.
B.C.Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat was also present and indicated that in recent years, Indo-Canadian ties were witnessing a new momentum in line with India’s economic growth, it said.
“The delegation had a series of meetings with the government of British Columbia, wherein both the Ministers identified a number of opportunities for mutual cooperation,” it said.
It was acknowledged that India’s steel industry is growing at a fast pace and needs additional quantities of coking coal, which can be sourced from British Columbia, according to the statement.
A “Statement of Cooperation” was also signed between Rashtriya Ispat Nigam and IC-IMPACTS Centre of Excellence, University of British Columbia.
The objective is to encourage and strengthen ties and potential collaboration for technology development and transfer, network development, research partnerships related to promotion of steel, water conservation and augmentation.
The meeting with Verma, was part of a week-long tour in Canada that began on 15th July with an objective to have cooperation between organizations of both the countries for sourcing/acquisition of minerals like coking coal and iron ore.
The Canada-India Business Council states that with its growing population—1.2 billion at last count—India is set to overtake China as the largest country in the world by 2025.
Currently the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, India has a large middle-class population that has begun urbanizing, modernizing and industrializing with an almost insatiable need, putting a demand on the country’s resources and infrastructure.
Translated that means BC coking coal is much needed by India, the world’s fourth-largest steel producer, which is expected to add around 5 million to 6 million tonnes of steel-making capacity over the next year.
India produced 49.35 million tonnes of metallurgical coal and imported 32.2 million tonnes in 2012/13, government data showed.
If India makes deals to get at BC’s coking coal much of it will be handled, stored and transported via Vancouver terminals.
Meanwhile, a new survey said proposals to increase coal exports from Metro Vancouver through a new transfer facility has clearly divided local residents.
The Insights West survey has found that half of residents across Metro Vancouver (49%) are aware of the expansion of Fraser Surrey docks proposed by the Port of Vancouver to increase the export of coal coming from the United States, and destined for Asia. However, three-in-five (59%) admit to not being familiar with the proposed expansion.
Lower Mainland residents are split on the plan, with one third (32%) supporting the expansion, and a similar proportion (31%) voicing opposition to it. Almost two-in-five (36%) are undecided.
Metro Vancouverites are of two minds when it comes to coal. A sizeable majority believes that the expansion of the terminal will create more jobs in the province (72%), and asserts that coal contributes significantly to BC’s exports (62%). In addition, 67 per cent think that, if we don’t build the terminal, coal will just get shipped from elsewhere.
However, despite the show of support for jobs and exports, most residents (67%) regard coal dust as an environmental threat, and believe that, because coal is a major contributor to greenhouse gas and climate change, they would not support a project like this one (55%).
“At this point, the environmental concerns from residents are evident, but there is also wide agreement on the economic benefits,” said Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs at Insights West.
“While the proposed expansion is divisive, there is a large group of people in Metro Vancouver who are not particularly informed about the initiative, and have not made up their minds about it yet.”
Coal hard facts in BC
- There are 10 mines in operation around the province, in three separate regions.
- The five mines in southeast B.C. produce mainly metallurgical coal, along with the four in northeast B.C. The mine on Vancouver Island produces thermal coal.
- Metallurgical coal is used mainly as a fuel and as a reducing agent in smelting iron ore. Thermal coal is also known as steam coal and is mainly used in power generation.
- Energy and mining exports in 2011 accounted for more than 30 per cent of B.C.’s international exports. Coal alone accounts for slightly more than half the $14 billion total export value of that sector and 18 per cent of total B.C. merchandise exports. By dollar value it has been B.C.’s top commodity export since 2008 including $5.6 billion last year.
- B.C. is home to more than 800 mining companies.
- Most of the coal produced in British Columbia is sent to Asian countries, including Japan, China, South Korea and India. It is also shipped to countries Europe and other parts of North and South America.
- B.C.’s three major coal ports, Westshore, Neptune and Ridley terminals have either committed or spent a combined total of $365 million to increase coal handling capacity.
- Ridley Terminals expects to complete a $200-million project by sometime next year that will double annual coal export capacity to 24 million tonnes. Neptune Terminals, meanwhile is directing $65 million out of a total $400-million terminal upgrade to expand coal capacity from 8.5 million tonnes at present to 18.5 million tonnes by 2015.
- In the province, coal is concentrated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, northeast of the Peace River Region, and southeast in the Kootenays, while also being found on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
- As applications for new mines are put in around the province, many local residents have showed resistance to the project, saying they fear the environmental effects of the mine’s runoff.
- In B.C. there are more than 26,000 jobs related to the coal industry, including mining, transportation, and shipping.
- According to the BC Government, since the late 1960’s about 45,412 hectares has been disturbed by major metal and coal mines. About 19,422 hectares has been reclaimed.
- Sources – Port Metro Vancouver, Mining.bc.ca, empr.gov.bc.ca, trcr.bc.ca,miningassociationbc.com, globalTV, Vancouver Sun