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Ottawa Bans Thermal Coal Mines Due To Climate Risks

The federal government in Ottawa will no longer approve thermal coal mines because of their contribution to climate change.

The announcement regarding thermal coal mining was made by federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson during the Group of Seven (G7) leaders meeting held in the United Kingdom.

Canada is the only G7 country to see its carbon emissions rise between 2015 and 2019, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced global criticism for his climate record. The government statement noted that burning thermal coal is the largest contributor to climate change in the world and a major source of toxic pollution.

Canada produced 57 metric tons of coal in 2019, of which less than half (47%) is thermal coal used to generate electricity, with the remainder being metallurgical coal used for steelmaking.

Coal-fired electricity supplies less than 10% of Canada’s needs and the government has previously said it will be phased out entirely by 2030. Ninety-five percent of Canada’s 2019 coal exports were metallurgical coal.

A much larger source of carbon emissions comes from the country’s oil sands production, which requires vast amounts of energy to extract bitumen from open-pit mines.

Earlier this week, Canada’s top oil sands producers announced that they will build out carbon-capture infrastructure to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Trudeau has pledged that Canada will reduce its emissions by 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Although Alberta, Canada’s energy leader, has been phasing out coal-fired generation for years, the western province is still a major coal producer and exporter. Ottawa’s decision on thermal coal mines applies to a proposed expansion of the Vista Coal Mine near Hinton, Alberta, which is operated by Australian mining company Coalspur Mines.