Delegation meets with B.C.’s premier, new international trade minister
India wants to buy a bigger chunk of B.C.’s vast metallurgical coal reserves to feed its growing steel industry, a potential boost to the province’s No. 1 export business, worth $5.7 billion a year.
A high-level delegation led by India’s Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma was in B.C. this month and met with Premier Christy Clark, International Trade Minister Teresa Wat and B.C. coal industry representatives.
The Indian government forecasts that by 2017 the country will need twice as much metallurgical coal. The additional 47 million tonnes of metallurgical coal India forecasts it’ll need every year is more than B.C.’s entire annual production of 24 million tonnes.
However, British Columbia sits on vast coal reserves of an estimated 13 billion tonnes with several proposed metallurgical coal mines in the environmental assessment process. Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of B.C., said the province’s coal industry is paying close attention to the burgeoning Indian market.
“We know there is demand. Japan, China and India are certainly paying a lot of attention to British Columbia because of proximity to markets but also our stability, technology and our ability to do things responsibly,” said Brino.
“Definitely this is not an opportunity that industry is going to pass on. And the more conversations and more we get to know each other on how do business and how to collaborate is something our members will be pursuing,” she added.
There is already a battle over increasing coal exports through Port Metro Vancouver. Increased interest from countries such as India that lead to more production and overseas shipments is only likely to fuel concerns about coal’s role in climate change.
Environmental groups and some Lower Mainland residents are raising concerns over coal’s contribution to greenhouse gases (coal produces more carbon dioxide than natural gas and oil), and increased rail traffic, diesel emissions and coal dust.
While the protest has focused on U.S. thermal coal (used to produce electricity) that is exported through Vancouver, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change spokesman Kevin Washbrook said metallurgical coal used to make steel also produces greenhouse gases.
B.C. needs to be planning how to transition away from fossil fuels, including metallurgical coal, perhaps ensuring the steel is used to produce solar panels or even creating a domestic steel industry in B.C. and taking responsibility for the carbon emissions, said Washbrook. “I don’t see any coherent acknowledgment we are running out of time with climate change,” he said.
There are nine metallurgical coal mines in British Columbia, and one thermal coal mine.
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