Coal Pumps $1 Billion into Economy

Teck’s Elk Valley coal operations in the southeastern B.C. spent more than $1 billion on goods and services in the province in 2013, a new report by Resource Works says.

While about one quarter of that spending took place in the southern Interior region the coal operations are located, nearly 60 per cent of the money was pumped into businesses in the Lower Mainland, which includes Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

“We are trying to shine a light on a part of the economy that most people don’t see in their day-to-day lives if they live in larger cities, yet has a very significant impact on the employment prospects they enjoy and also the funding for services that governments deliver because of taxes and royalties,” Resource Works executive director Stewart Muir said Sunday.

Coal has been under attack from environmental groups and some Lower Mainland communities that say it is imperative that carbon emissions are reduced to combat climate change. These groups oppose increased coal exports through Port Metro Vancouver. They have also raised concerns over dust from coal trains and the trains’ diesel emissions.

Although the metallurgical coal mined in Elk Valley is not used directly to produce energy — but rather in the steelmaking process — it has also been caught up in the backlash.

Resource Works is funded by the Business Council of B.C. and has a 16-member advisory board that includes representatives of business, First Nations, resource-based communities and the Pacific Salmon Foundation. Former NDP cabinet minister Dan Miller sits on the advisory board.

Given a drastic slide in coal prices, Muir said the report also highlights how important the continued health of the steelmaking coal industry is to the province.

Several coal mines in northern B.C. have shutdown indefinitely since 2014, while Teck ordered temporary shutdowns at its Elk Valley coal mines this summer.

Voters Taking Action on Climate Change spokesman Kevin Washbrook said his first reaction to the report is to wonder whether Resource Works is laying the groundwork for a government handout to the coal industry.

“The East Kootenays certainly do need government support, but it should be support to enable community economic diversification and a transition away from fossil fuel industries, not to entrench dependency on one industry dependent on developments in one or two countries far away,” said Washbrook.

Leading destinations for B.C. coal are Japan, China and South Korea.

Resource Works’ report says that spending by Teck’s Elk Valley coal operations benefited more than 1,400 suppliers in B.C. and in Alberta. Goods supplied to the coal mines include heavy equipment, fuel, tires, scaffolding, construction materials and electronic equipment.

Services that were purchased by Teck included machine and equipment maintenance, rail transportation, legal services, scientific and technical contracts, food service and accommodation.

While $246.5 million was spent in the region where the coal mines are located, $609.3 million was spend in the Lower Mainland. Another $103 million was spent in the Thompson Okanagan and smaller amounts in other areas of B.C.

Another $713.6 million was spent in Alberta.

Among the major companies in B.C. which benefited from spending by the coal mines were Neptune Bulk Terminals in North Vancouver, Kal Tire in Vernon, heavy-equipment supplier Nohels Group in Sparwood, general contractor Dynamic Industries in Cranbrook, Chinook Scaffolding in Trail and Rayco Steel in Sparwood. The six suppliers to the Elk Valley mining operations alone generated 345 jobs in B.C., with an associated payroll of $34.5 million in 2014.


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