Canada: Alberta coal production falls to more than 12-year low in September

• No met coal produced for third straight month
• Cumulative bituminous thermal output jumps 34.7% on year

Coal production in Alberta, Canada, fell to a more-than-12-year low 1.14 million mt in September, down 20.6% from 1.43 million mt in August and 41.1% lower than the 1.93 million mt in the year-ago month, according to Alberta Energy Regulator data released Nov. 16.

Bituminous thermal coal output ticked lower to 797,152 mt in September, from 801,274 mt in August, but up from 572,463 mt in the year-ago month. Production at Coalspur Mines Ltd.’s Vista thermal mine, owned by the Cline Group and based in Hinton, was at 797,152 mt, compared with 801,274 mt in August and 226,444 mt in September 2019. Coalspur, which first started production in February 2019, has produced 5.97 million mt through the first nine months of 2020, more than tripling the 1.88 million mt of the same period a year ago.

For the third time this year and the second straight month, Alberta’s other bituminous thermal mine, Coal Valley, which is owned by Westmoreland Mining Holdings, did not produce any coal in September. Bituminous thermal coal production through the first nine months of 2020 is up 34.7% year on year at 6.92 million mt and the highest for the corresponding period in over 12 years, according to AER data that goes back to 2009.

Both Coal Valley and Coalspur, which are mined from the same seam, ship all of their coal by rail to ports on the west coast of British Columbia for deliveries to power plants overseas.

According to AER data, a four-month high 524,029 mt of bituminous thermal coal was exported from Alberta in September, up from 399,528 mt in August and 445,243 mt in September 2019.

South Korea was shipped 162,740 mt of thermal coal in September, up from 152,989 mt in August, but down from 165,000 mt in the year-ago month, while a record-high 146,191 mt and 86,002 mt was exported to Chile and Singapore, respectively, up from 70,947 mt and 79,720 mt in August. An additional 67,884 mt was shipped to Japan in September, down from 245,908 mt in the previous month.

About 4.13 million mt of bituminous thermal was exported through September, up from 2.47 million mt exported in the same period a year ago.

Alberta has shipped 1.43 million mt of thermal coal to South Korea and 926,662 mt to Japan this year, compared with 461,732 mt and 520,159 mt, respectively, in the same period a year earlier. The province has also exported 758,194 mt to Singapore and 432,554 mt to Chile, compared with 1.13 million mt and zero last year.

No met coal produced again in September
For the third straight month, Alberta in September did not produce any metallurgical coal, compared with 374,477 mt in September 2019. Met coal production through the first nine months is at 2.3 million mt, down from 2.91 million mt in the same period a year earlier.

Subbituminous output falls to more than 12-year low
Subbituminous coal production at the five mines in the province fell to a more than 12-year low 340,212 mt in September, down from 631,717 mt in August and 984,241 mt in September 2019. It was the lowest monthly total on record, beating out the previous low 459,344 mt produced in July.

Cumulative production through September is at 5.6 million mt, down from 8.57 million mt in the same period a year ago. It was the lowest production total through the first nine months of a year in more than 12 years.