Powering the future

The Coal Association of Canada represents and advocates for Canada’s coal industry

by Marie Milner
A haul truck is being loaded at one of Conuma Coal’s mines near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

A haul truck is being loaded at one of Conuma Coal’s mines near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. — Photo courtesy Coal Association of Canada

Industries operate for the benefit of people—sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. The mission of the Coal Association of Canada (CAC) is “To proactively support Association members in the development, growth and advancement of a safe, socially responsible and economically sustainable Canadian Coal industry.”

To fulfill its mission, the CAC acts as a spokesperson and advocate for the industry, communicating with government and the general public as well as within the industry, on behalf of its members. It also supports innovation and recognizes the people who are notably serving its mission. In April 2019, John Schadan, the president of Conuma Coal Resources, was elected chairman of the CAC board.

The awards

The CAC Award of Distinction, established in 2012, and the CAC Community Champions Awards, new in 2018, recognize those who have made significant contributions to the coal industry in Canada.

Nominees for the CAC Award of Distinction must work in an industry-related position like coal production or supporting fields like coal transportation or industrial coal consumption, or they may be a supplier of goods and services to the industry. In addition, they must have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in the industry.According to the organization’s website, the purpose of the Community Champions Awards is  “...to encourage corporate support of our local communities and recognize these member companies for the positive impacts that their projects are having in their areas.”

Dennis Blake (centre), senior manager of Ridley Terminals, accepted the 2018 CAC Award of Distinction from past CAC chairperson, Mark Bartkoski (left), and CAC president, Robin Campbell (right). — Photo courtesy Coal Association of Canada

The Community Champions Awards will recognize up to three projects for their positive impacts in local areas, as put forward by CAC member companies. To assure the panel of independent judges of the worthiness of the nominated projects, letters of support from community leaders must accompany the nominations.

Both awards will be presented at the CAC’s annual conference in October 2019, in Vancouver.

A fresh and informed perspective

Advances in science and technology often result in improved industry practices. New regulations may be put forward governing environmental impact and workplace health and safety, and there may be opportunities for improved efficiency and profitability.

“With the guidance of our past chairman, Mark Bartkoski, we’ve increased our outreach to post-secondary students,” said Robin Campbell, president of the CAC. “We want to encourage interest in and knowledge of the coal industry, so we’ve been inviting them to our annual conference, as well as creating a student scholarship and internship program. This program provides some financial incentive, and that successful applicant gets a real feel for the industry during a summer internship. They will get some field experience beyond what they learn in the classroom.

“We need those young, fresh minds to lead innovation and bring a fresh perspective to the field. It’s beneficial for them, and it’s important for us as an association in the industry to have that perspective.”

The CAC is, for the first time, offering a scholarship/internship program for a Canadian university student, with the intention of encouraging interest in the coal industry as a career path. Students studying mining engineering, geology, environmental science or other industry-related fields, were invited to apply for a $5,000 scholarship and a paid 2019 summer internship opportunity.

Details of the 2020 program application and intake schedule will be available in fall 2019.

Innovation: challenge and success

Environment and Climate Change Canada is in the process of developing a new impact assessment act (Bill C-69) and new regulations governing coal mining effluent. The fresh perspective of newly educated university graduates will be especially valuable in the face of inevitable changes that will be required in mining practices.

Upgrades to coal-handling equipment at Westshore Terminals ensures continued productivity for future generations. — Photo courtesy Coal Association of Canada

The world’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility, located at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 in Estevan, has been operating for five years now, with a current one-day average CO2 capture of about 2,500 tonnes. Improvements in technology mean that similar CCS facilities built today would be significantly less costly to build than the original facility.

By keeping personnel at a safe distance from active working areas, the technology for autonomous haulage vehicles and autonomous drills is making mining safer, more efficient and more profitable. Autonomous technologies are in use at dozens of hard rock mines, but not yet used in coal mines. However, remote control underground mobile equipment is in use, as is remote and semi-autonomous operation of longwall systems.

The day will come when autonomous vehicles and equipment will be used in coal mining. Proven profitability is driving the demand for this technology, and the dramatic change in working conditions is igniting enthusiasm among potential industry employees. 

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