Did You Know? Facts About Canadian Coal

From bicycles, roads, and smartphones to electricity – coal is an important mineral resource in our daily lives. 
Did you know that coal is the world’s most plentiful fossil fuel? It is a mineral formed from the remains of land-based plants buried hundreds of millions of years ago and then exposed to tremendous heat and pressure.

There are two types of coal.

  1. Metallurgical coal is an essential ingredient in making steel.
    • Steel is required for building roads and buildings, even wind turbines and many of the things we use in our everyday lives, such as computers, cars, bicycles and kitchen appliances.
  2. Thermal coal is used in the generation of electricity.
    • It’s the most used energy resource in the world, providing a low cost source of power for many countries. It’s also used in industrial operations.

Coal mines in Canada

Coal in action

Canada is home to 24 permitted coal mines – 19 of which are
currently in operation
. In addition, there are many more projects in the exploration phase or in the advanced stages of regulatory approval. More than 90% of Canada’s coal deposits are located in western provinces – in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

  • British Columbia has 10 mines
  • Alberta has 9 mines
  • Saskatchewan has 3 mines
  • Nova Scotia has 2 mines

The majority of Canada’s coal is produced by surface mining – either strip mining or open pit. Strip mining is only a temporary use of the land and reclamation can be carried out at the same time mining takes place. With open pit mining, once the pit is mined, it’s backfilled with earth and resurfaced with native trees, shrubs and grasses.


Coal production

Canadian coal production has totalled over 60 million tonnes in the last few years. In 2012, coal production was 67 million tonnes.

  • 38 million tonnes (56%) was thermal coal and produced mainly in the Prairies.
  • 29 million tonnes was metallurgical (steel-making) coal and produced in Western Alberta and BC.


There’s More To Coal

Job Board

Check out our job board for the most current job listings in the country. Your new career could be waiting for you.

Jobs & Training

A career in coal isn’t just about hard hats and pickaxes. Diverse job opportunities await you.

Map of Coal Mines in Canada

See a sample of mine locations across Canada.

Canada’s coal exports

Around 40% of the coal produced in Canada is exported. In 2010, exports totalled 33 million tonnes, which is a 22% increase from the previous year. The majority of the coal exported was steel-making coal. Almost all thermal coal produced in Canada is used domestically.

Origins of total exports in 2010:

  • Asia – 73%
  • Europe and the Middle East – 14%
  • United States – 13%


How coal is used in Canada

Here in Canada, we used 48 million tonnes of coal in 2009 and the majority was for coal-fired electricity.

  • 42 million tonnes was used by 19 coal-fired power generation plants in Canada.
  • 3 million tonnes was used in the iron and steel industry.
  • 3 million tonnes was used for industrial energy and non-energy uses.

What coal means to Canada’s economy

Canada would be disadvantaged without its coal industry because of the economic and social benefits it brings. The coal industry creates tens of thousands of jobs, pays millions of dollars in taxes and royalties to governments to support social programs like health and education and helps support local businesses and community programs.

Coal mining is an important contributor to Canada’s GDP – contributing an estimated $5.2 billion in 2011.

Jobs in coal

Canada coal industry employs a highly skilled and diverse workforce. Did you know that approximately 42,000 people are directly and indirectly employed as a result of the coal industry and employment has been rising steadily since 2004?

Coal industry salaries are higher than the average national wage. From 2001 to 2010, salaries in the mining industry increased by 37%.

The mining industry is also the largest employer of Aboriginal people in Canada and works with educational institutions and governments to provide training and employment opportunities.

Shipping Coal – from Rail, to Ports & Terminals

An efficient and inter-connected network of rail and port infrastructure is critical to get Canadian coal to market. Of all the commodities carried by rail and handled by ports in Canada, coal ranks number one!

Canada has two major rail operators, Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) which transport Canadian coal. Canada’s railroads move over 30 million tonnes of coal annually. That’s a lot of coal and a lot of jobs.