Coal facts

What is coal?

Coal is a mineral deposit that is rich in carbon content. This carbon is important, as it is what gives the coal the greater majority of its energy content. When coal is burned in the presence of air or oxygen, heat energy is released. This energy can then be converted to other forms of useful energy.

Key facts

  • Canada’s coal production in 2016 was 61 mega tonnes (Mt)
  • Canada exported 30 Mt of coal and imported 6 Mt
  • Alberta and British Columbia produce 85% of Canada’s coal
  • In 2016, the Government of Canada announced its plan to eliminate the use of traditional coal fired electricity in Canada by 2030

Learn more about coal in Canada

Coal industry

In 2014, coal made up 28.6% of the world’s energy supply. In Canada, there is an abundance of low-cost, domestic coal across many parts of the nation while other regions have easy access to an international supply.

The Canadian coal industry produces coal for use in metallurgical applications and thermal applications (e.g. electricity generation). Nearly half of coal produced is thermal and half is metallurgical. Some power-generating companies not only use coal for electricity generation but also own coal mines or are involved in coal production. Other companies generate electricity from purchased coal.

International context

Find out how Canada’s coal ranks on an international scale:

World Production
World production* – 7.3 billion tonnes (2016, preliminary)
Rank Country Percentage of Total
1 China 45%
2 United States 10%
3 India 9%
4 Australia 7%
5 Indonesia 6%
12 Canada 1%
World exports
World exports – 1.3 billion tonnes (2016, preliminary)
Rank Country Percentage of Total
1 Australia 29%
2 Indonesia 28%
3 Russia 13%
4 Colombia 6%
5 South Africa 6%
8 Canada 2%
World proved reserves
World proved reserves – 985 billion tonnes (2014)
Rank Country Percentage of Total
1 United States 26%
2 Russia 16%
3 China 13%
4 Australia 11%
5 India 9%
15 Canada 1%

The above data excludes coal products such as coke.

Supply and demand

In 2016, Canadian production of coal was 61 mega tonnes (Mt).

37 Mt of coal was used in Canada mostly for electricity generation in Alberta and Saskatchewan and additionally for metallurgical applications.

Trade

Coal imports have been trending down for over a decade, while exports have held steady. The majority of Canada’s coal exports go to Asia, which is still a significant consumer.

Text version

From 2005 to 2013, coal exports increased slightly from 28 million tonnes to almost 40 million tonnes before falling to about 30 million tonnes in 2015 and 2016. Coal imports decreased from 21 million tonnes in 2005 to 6.3 million tonnes in 2016.

Exports and imports

In 2016, Canada exported 30 mega tonnes (Mt) of coal around the world and imported 6 mega tonnes (Mt) of coal.

Text version

In 2016, Canadian exports of coal were valued at 4.5 billion dollars. The major destination of those exports were: Japan with 24%, South Korea with 20%, China with 16%. 3% of Canada’s coal exports are to the United States, representing 11% of U.S. coal imports. 76% of Canadian coal imports come from the United States. Half of imports are used for the manufacturing of steel, the rest is for electricity generation.

Production and use

10% of electricity in Canada is generated with coal. With the phasing out of coal fired electricity by the Government of Canada, energy produced by coal will be eliminated by 2030. That being said, coal will continue to be used for metallurgical processes.

Text version

Canada produced 61.0 megatonnes of coal in 2016. Production by province is as follows: British Columbia 43%, Alberta 42%, and Saskatchewan 15%.

Text version

Canada consumed 36.2 megatonnes of coal for electricity generation in 2015. Alberta consumed 67% of the coal used for electricity generation in Canada, Saskatchewan follows with 24%, then Nova Scotia with 7%, New Brunswick with 2%, and Manitoba with 0.1%.

Coal-fired generating capacity by province, 2017

Province
Total
coal-generating capacity (MW)
Share of total capacity (%)
Alberta 6,457 65.7%
Saskatchewan 1,530 15.6%
Nova Scotia 1,252 12.7%
New Brunswick 490 5%
Manitoba** 105 1.1%
Total 9,834 100%

Note: The government has announced its plan to eliminate the use of traditional coal-fired electricity in Canada by 2030.
** As per provincial regulations, the Brandon coal-fired power plant may be used only in emergency situations.

Sources