Alberta to audit coal mines to ensure there’s money for cleanup – by Tracy Johnson (CBC News Calgary – July 28, 2016)

Companies must post a deposit, but it may fall short of the actual cost of reclamation

As Alberta moves away from coal-fired electricity, the provincial government is trying to ensure it will not be on the hook to clean up old coal mines once they stop operating. The Alberta Energy Regulator is planning to audit nine coal mines beginning by mid-September to ensure that each operator has the security on hand to reclaim the property.

The AER said it is looking for a contractor to “validate that the approval holder’s … security deposit is sufficient for the liability cost of suspension, decommissioning, remediation, monitoring and surface reclamation,” according to a request for proposal posted this month.

In its climate change plan released last November, the provincial government said it will no longer be dependent on coal-fired power by 2030. That means several plants will be shut down many years before their operators had planned.

That has set off a series of disputes about power purchase agreements and whether electricity costs will rise, and if power generators deserve to be compensated for the early retirement of their assets.

Future of coal bleak

It also means many of Alberta’s coal plants have no future.

In particular, thermal coal mines, which produce coal for power generation, do not have many options open to them. Even metallurgical coal, which is often shipped out of Canada for steelmaking, is seeing prices low enough that some mines have suspended operations in Alberta.

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