Archive | Coal

Cape Breton’s undersea coal field a vein to energy wealth – by Neil Reynolds (Globe and Mail – January 18, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA— French explorer Nicholas Deny discovered abundant coal (“a mountain of very good coal four leagues up the river”) on Cape Breton Island in 1672. Within a few years, miners were prying coal from rock outcroppings along the coast with crowbars. Although Cape Breton’s fabled coal mines closed a decade ago, ostensibly forever, the chances are good that the island will soon be back in the coal business – mining a huge and distinctly Canadian energy source: the undersea Sydney coal field.

Cape Breton University (CBU) president H. John Harker, an energy authority, describes this energy resource as “a vast deposit [150 billion tonnes] of quality coal under the waters of the North Atlantic extending from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and Labrador.” Swing westward into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and undersea coal deposits more than double, to 350 billion tonnes.

Cape Breton’s undersea coal field is so big that Mr. Harker thinks Canada, Britain and the United States should develop it strategically, recalling the Second World War alliance (Roosevelt, Churchill and Mackenzie King) that won the Battle of the Atlantic. Continue Reading →

Ottawa backtracks on coal emissions – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – January 6, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

The federal government is offering the provinces a way to avoid tough new regulations that would eventually force power companies to shut down the country’s fleet of coal-fired power plants.

Environment Minister Peter Kent and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have privately indicated they are willing to provide flexibility in how new power-plant emissions rules are implemented, provincial and industry sources said Thursday. Mr. Kent is expected to release the final version of the long-promised regulations in the coming months.

The change in stance by the federal government provides relief for some of the country’s biggest utilities. Alberta-based power generators such as TransAlta Corp.,  Capital Power Corp. and Atco Ltd.  – as well as Nova Scotia’s Emera Inc.  – have warned that a rigid approach to Ottawa’s plant-by-plant rules would increase costs, drive up electricity prices for consumers, and strand valuable assets by imposing arbitrary deadlines for power plant closings. Continue Reading →

A cautious optimism for coal – by David Ebner and Brenda Bouw (Globe and Mail – January 4, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

RIDLEY ISLAND, B.C. AND VANCOUVER – The sky is a hard grey and the small mountains of coal piled a dozen metres high are thick black. From this outpost in northwestern British Columbia, about 700 kilometres from Vancouver, coal trundles on conveyors from train cars to the piles, and then onward to docked ships destined for steel mills in China, Japan, and South Korea.

New equipment – huge rings of steel – lays nearby. The gear will increase the capacity of Ridley Terminals Inc. to unload coal from trains, one step in a four-year, multimillion-dollar effort to double exports to 24-million tonnes a year, and handle new and increased production from coal mines in British Columbia, Alberta and the United States.

It is the second time Canada has bet big on higher coal exports to steel makers in Asia. Last time, the bet on Japan failed badly when the forecasted prolonged boom didn’t last. Today, the same belief, and certainty, has been attached to China, the world’s largest steel-producing nation. Continue Reading →

The Dark Lord of Coal Country – by Jeff Goodell (Rolling Stone Magazine – November 29, 2010)

One balmy night this fall, a black BMW 750LI — a German luxury sedan that costs more than a typical coal miner makes in a year — pulls into the parking lot of the shaggy country club in Bluefield, West Virginia. Bluefield is a fading coal town in a state that is full of fading coal towns. Seventy-five years ago, when the Pocahontas coal seam was one of the richest veins in America, and tooling up for the 20th century required massive tonnage of coal, there was money here, and hope. But now the coal is mined out, the buildings downtown are vacant, and shiny new Beemers are about as common as flying saucers.

The driver — a young, tan, L.A.-surfer-boy type — jumps out and opens the rear door. A tall man, 60, with a thin mustache and a double chin emerges: Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, the largest and most powerful coal company in central Appalachia. He grabs his dark-blue suit jacket, which is folded on the tan leather seat beside him, and slips it on. He wears a red-and-yellow silk tie and tasseled leather loafers. His hands are chubby and white — no calluses, not a speck of coal dust. Accountant’s hands. His eyes are black and inexpressive.

Unless you live in West Virginia, you’ve probably never heard of Don Blankenship. You might not know that he grew up in the coal fields of West Virginia, received an accounting degree from a local college, and, through a combination of luck, hard work and coldblooded ruthlessness, transformed himself into the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the business and politics of energy in America today Continue Reading →

Can Coal-to-Hydrocarbons Replace Oil? – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

Like our readers, we at Canadain Mining Journal have watched the price of crude oil skyrocket and heard the voices of the “greens” calling for a more environmentally friendly energy source.

We don’t usually comment on the oil industry except the massive mining operations of the Alberta oil sands. The oil sands have been roundly criticized as one of the least environmentally friendly fuel sources. Their mining and processing could be made cleaner with a liberal injection of money, but the oil sands still produce conventional hydrocarbons in the end.

Ethanol has been suggested as a replacement for hydrocarbons. But the use of corn, rice and wheat in the manufacture of ethanol has played a major part in the rise of food staple prices, placing an unbearable burden on the world’s most disadvantaged people.

Coal, of course, is the second most popular energy source, behind hydrocarbons. It has a reputation of being dangerous to mine and dirty to burn. Continue Reading →