How is coal mining harmful to BC’s resources and what can we do about it?
Where does our energy come from? How is it generated? The answer to both these questions is coal. Coal is the fuel source for 40% of all electricity, the largest in the world.
I myself was not aware that coal still played a role in our lives, I had thought that the age of coal had ended in the 1950’s with most of the men fighting in World War 2. I was very wrong. Coal is responsible for the largest amount of anthropogenic (human produced) carbon dioxide. Coal produced electricity emits about 2,000 pounds of CO2 during each megawatt-hour that it’s produced, that is nearly twice as much as a natural gas, and in 1999, the world generated 8,666 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from coal. In 2001, the amount of clean coal produced was 27.2 million tonnes Coal is even used to produce the steam which powers some turbines. In 2010, the world’s coal consumption equaled 7.25 billion tonnes and is expected to keep rising.
The Hazardous Process of Coal Mining…
Coal mining is a very dangerous, harmful process. In some cases, mountains have chunks blown out of them, resulting in major landscape changes, for example, streams can be redirected or even covered. Mining coal produces dust and small fragments that are easily blown around and can result in contaminated water bodies and be health risks to people.
There are two types of coal mining – surface mining and underground mining; the distinguishing features of which are in their names. However they do considerable damage to the environment. In surface mining, any land above the coal is tossed up and disturbed. Underground mines impact the environment less than surface mines but methane (a very powerful greenhouse-gas) must be released for the mines to be safe to be in.
Check out this video…
Coal in BC…
BC has one of the largest coal industries in Canada. It is estimated that over 250 billion tonnes of coal remains in BC. More than 12 new mines have been proposed. If they were to be given the go ahead that would seriously effect our drinking water, the oyster industry, and the salmon population. It would also impact the dwindling caribou population and many other species.
The majority of our power is hydroelectric, and due to climate change, BC’s regulations, state that coal-fired power generation is not allowed (yet we still have some) the Government says it can be generated when it emits no greenhouse-gasses.
Most of the mines here are owned by Chinese companies, who are going to send hundreds workers to mine the coal and then bring it back to China! Meaning that there is only so much we can do about it. (For more information and a map click here)
Flathead Valley mining
According to CBC news, the Government of BC is being sued by a coal company because they banned all mining in the Flathead Valley region. Flathead Valley has the largest population of grizzly bears in all of the American continent, arguably, the world. Cline (of the Cline Mining Corp) claims that his coal licence rights were expropriated (taken by the government because of disproving public) and his company will be at a major loss because of the ban, he estimates that the amount the company will require a sum 500 million dollars in compensation. BC Energy and Mines Ministry stated that they are discussing the price, “out of 10 mineral tenure holders, 6 have agreed for a total sum of 4.9 million dollars. The Ministry issued a statement saying “There are times where government decides to put environmental values over de
velopment. The mining ban of the Flathead Watershed Area Act is one of those times.” No further comments are being made because Cline’s claim is now before the court.
What is being done…
Many people have taken action against Coal mines. For example, local residents who would be situated near the proposed mines (mentioned in the last section) are protesting. Farmers are among them stating that coal would contaminate the crops making them inconsumable.
The Government of BC has already figured out some ways to reduce its environmental impact, for example, they have gotten better about cleaning coal, and our consuming needs have been directed to low sulfur coal-burning. Coal waste can be used in things like cement and synthetic gypsum. Clean Water and Clean Air Acts have been established to help reduce the amount of coal and other pollutants industries emit. Recycling and reusing coal also lessens its impact on nature. Research is still being done to reduce the emissions of CO2 from coal combustion. (Video)
THINGS WE CAN DO
If we could put some more time into cleaning coal (weeding out the rocks and such before burning it) and develop better ways of doing so, it would be more Eco-friendly (emits less greenhouse gasses) and be a better energy source. But this would only be a temporary solution because the worlds coal deposits are running out.
Though coal-fired electricity generation isn’t a big problem here in BC, the mines still are! If you agree, you can show support by:
- Spreading the word about how coal mining affects us and the environment
- Find/start a petition circulating (possibly that supports using alternative energy), and sign it
- Pass this on!
Thank you! 🙂
Wikipedia: Coal, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal
Energy Kids: coal & the environment http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=coal_home-basics
Wikipedia: The clean air act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Air_Act_%28United_States%29
Ministry of the environment: the clean water act http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/environment/en/legislation/clean_water_act/index.htm
The Government of BC http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/EAED/Pages/default.aspx
The Government of BC website http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Geoscience/Coal/CoalBC/Pages/default.aspx#coalfields%20of%20british%20columbia
Coal free BC/Wilderness committee http://wildernesscommittee.org/coal
BC Hydro http://www.bchydro.com/energy_in_bc/energy_advantage_in_bc.html
The BC energy plan http://www.energyplan.gov.bc.ca/bcep/default.aspx?hash=5
How a steam turbine works (image) http://www.txucorp.com/responsibility/education/generation/steam.aspx
Canada Electricity source (chart) http://www.electricity.ca/media/pdfs/backgrounders/HandBook.pdf
Province Electricity source (chart) http://www.electricity.ca/media/pdfs/backgrounders/HandBook.pdf
Potential energy source (chart) http://www.electricity.ca/media/pdfs/backgrounders/HandBook.pdf
Environment Canada http://www.ec.gc.ca/ges-ghg/default.asp?lang=En&n=EAF0E96A-1#section1
Fuel source world chart and others http://pdf.wri.org/navigating_numbers.pdf
Coal mine (image) http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/roc/021018-3100-e.html
Vancouver Sun (articles) http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/Coal+mine+temporary+workers+will+here+years/7388916/story.html http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/Labour+group+slams+mass+importation+Chinese+workers+coal+mine/7394291/story.html
Coal company sues BC (article) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/05/30/bc-flathead-cline-mining.html
How do they do it? Coal mining video http://science.discovery.com/tv-shows/how-do-they-do-it/videos/how-do-they-do-it-coal-mining.htm
Recycling coal waste (video) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704868604575433243639995692.html