Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

In Alberta, a heating coal mine may be in its final year

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There are still five coal mines operating in Alberta, but only the Dodds mine still sells coal from heating to the general public.

Radio-Canada

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Dodds Colliery, near the village of Ryley, is the only one of the handful of remaining operations still selling heating coal to the public. However, it could be in its last year of operation: the mine has almost no more customers, while Alberta has begun to completely abandon coal over the last decade.

Barry Wilchiw has been hauling coal for decades. This is coal for heating greenhouses, barns and industrial workshops. In winter, it can be mixed with straw and burned to melt frozen ground to build pipelines or dig graves.

En due in particular to the lack of customers, this may be its last year. This ends my smut era. It's a dying activity, he says.

Barry Wilchiw used to haul coal six days a week, but now he only does it six days a month.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">While Mr. Wilchiw no longer uses coal to heat his home near Redwater, he still uses it to heat the remaining mine buildings of Thorhild, of whom he is the guardian, in order to prevent the water pipes from freezing.

Alberta has a long history with coal. This fuel was the first energy product that the province exported, starting in the late 1800s.

Alberta, however, misused over the last decade. Its last two coal-fired power plants are expected to be converted to natural gas by the end of the year.

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There remain five active coal mines in the province, including the Dodds mine located about 100 kilometers southeast of Edmonton.

Less than 10 years ago, it was common to see trucks lined up waiting to be filled with coal, says mine manager Dave Bowal. Today, there are only a handful of customers per day.

When I started taking over my parents' coal mine, I dreamed of my children taking it over. But it doesn't look like they'll have a chance to take it back.

A quote from Dodds Coal Mine Manager Dave Bowal

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Dave Bowal is the manager of the Dodds coal mine, which has been in his family since the 1950s.

The mine has been in his family since the 1950s. Areas of the mine where there is no active mining have been transformed into farmland for growing canola, wheat and barley.

If the price of coal itself does not not increased much in recent years, it has become much more expensive to buy, largely because of the federal carbon tax.

At Dodds Mine, coal costs about $50 a ton before the carbon tax. With tax, that rises to $115.

For example, this winter, a customer bought nearly $7,000 worth of coal there, of which $4,600 was $ were spent on the carbon tax.

Since 2020, the carbon tax has cost mine customers an additional $8 million, according to Dave Bowal.

The low carbon carbon tax calorific value is expected to increase on April 1 of this year to around $142 per ton. As a result, a ton of coal from the Dodds mine would cost nearly $200.

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Coal mine customers come from all over, some from as far away as northern British Columbia and Manitoba. They are made up of retired people who cannot afford to give up this source of energy.

Clients come from all over, says Dave Bowal, including northern British Columbia and Manitoba.

Among them, retirees who are unable to pay the costs of converting to another energy source. They come in with $200 and hope it lasts until they can find more money to come back, Bowal said.

Currently, there are no plans to close Alberta's remaining coal mines, according to an email from the office of Energy and Minerals Minister Brian Jean.

Mr. Bowal assures that the Dodds mine would remain open as long as it was profitable, and also to not leave people in the cold.

With information from Liam Harrap

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