The new chief executive officer of North Coal took the opportunity to talk up his company’s confidence in the future of metallurgical coal during a presentation to the District of Sparwood council this week.
North Coal’s development project, the Michel Coal Project, is located to the south east of Sparwood, and is envisioned as a 2 million tonne per year mine with a lifespan of around 25 years. The company projects it would create 500 jobs during construction, and 300 full-time jobs upon completion. It is currently undergoing regulatory assessments, and the company hopes to begin construction in 2025.
Ian Maxwell, who has recently taken over as CEO, said that given the current climate and thinking about coal in the aftermath of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, “it’s become very clear … that there are mixed views on the outlook of coal.”
At COP26, global leaders took aim at coal as a power source (thermal coal), with a pact to ‘phase down’ its use, but coal in steel-making will be harder – if not impossible – to dislodge, given it’s use in the steel-making process.
Maxwell cited models done by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on metallurgical coal in saying that North Coal remained very confident that it’s project had a place in the global coal supply chain even as countries around the world reduced emissions.
“By 2050, even under the requirements to meet the Paris Accords, 50 percent of the energy inputs into steel-making will still come from coal,” he said, adding that the ‘general consensus’ that coal is dead is not the view of the IEA.
Besides a long lifespan of existing steel-making infrastructure that requires coal to operate, Maxwell said that as the steel industry sought to de-carbonise and reduce reliance on the commodity, the demand for higher-quality coal would go up, and the coal currently mined (and proposed to be mined by North Coal) in the Elk Valley was higher quality.
“The outlook for (Canadian coal), if anything, is stronger going forward in a de-carbonising steel world.”
“We believe we’ll help the steel industry de-carbonise, and the steel industry desperately needs that product through to 2050 and beyond.”
For permitting, Maxwell said the company was optimistic they’d be able to submit an Environmental Assessment for public review by the second half of 2022.
When asked whether he believed North Coal would see the same sort of organised push-back felt by Riversdale Resources in Alberta (which had its Grassy Mountain project blocked by the Federal government), Maxwell said that opposition was a given.
“It’s inevitable that we will have a very difficult public review, and I think it’s naive to believe anything other than that in the current environment.
“Our best protection for that is to present the case for the product in a way that is well-communicated and understood (and) deliver a project that is as environmentally well-performing as it can possibly be in this part of the world.”
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