Coal Mines

Alberta contains 70 per cent of Canada's coal reserves and is the country's largest producer and its second-largest coal exporter. Coal-bearing formations underlie about 300,000 sq. km or about 48 per cent of the province's land area.

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Most mining activity in the province is based on surface pit operations. In mountain operations the topsoil is removed and stored, and the overburden drilled and blasted. Strip mining is the most common method used in the plains mines. Six of Alberta's mines supply coal to nearby electric power generating stations. The Highvale strip mine west of Edmonton is Canada's largest coal mine, producing 12.6 million tonnes a year.

Environmental issues

Growing concern over global warming has identified coal use as one source of greenhouse gases: coal produces more carbon dioxide per energy unit generated than oil or natural gas. New technologies including gasification are being developed to reduce emissions and increase thermal efficiency.

A large coal gasification project has been proposed for east of Edmonton. Pending approval, the mine and gasification plant could be operational by 2011.

Coalbed methane

A more recent development in Alberta is the extraction of natural gas from coal without surface mining.

 

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Updated: Jan 23, 2014