Cranbrook Chamber Endorses B.C.'s Coal Industry

Posted May 14, 2015





May 14, 2015


The Board of Directors of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce unanimously passed the following resolution at their May 13, 2015 meeting;

That the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce write a letter to the Coal Alliance supporting their efforts to development and disseminate information regarding the Coal Industry.

Members of the board had met previously with representatives of the Coal Alliance and the entire board subsequently reviewed a staff report prior to making their decision.

Chamber Executive Director, David D. Hull, commented, “The sentiment, prior to the vote was that given the importance of the coal industry to the BC and East Kootenay economy, and the contribution metallurgical grade coal makes to producing necessary and ancillary goods, it was imperative that a balanced, factual portrayal of the coal industry in its entirety was presented.”

The Coal Alliance is a collective of representatives from the coal industry, including mines, marine terminals, railways, industry associations, organized labour and others who support the mining and shipping of coal in British Columbia. Their objective is to ensure British Columbians have the facts about the coal industry – how coal is safely moved and the benefits coal provides to the world around us.

“We encourage the Coal Alliance to continue their efforts to ensure that the general public, special interest groups, and the media understand and have a sound grasp of the entire spectrum of the coal industry as it relates to our economy and the production of steel component products,” said Hull


COAL – 7,678 million metric tonnes of coal is produced each year around the world. Canada’s production is approximately 67.1 million tonnes, or 0.87 percent of global production.

CANADIAN COAL – Canada is one of about 35 countries that produce coal. While Canada’s production is relatively small, Canadian coal is highly sought after because of its low sulfur and ash properties and high caloric value which makes it a higher quality coal.

BC COAL – Coal has been mined in BC for more than a century.

Today, ten of the 24 Canadian coal mines are located in BC. The coal mined in BC is primarily metallurgical grade coal, a key ingredient in the production of steel.

EAST KOOTENAY COAL – The East Kootenay Coalfields comprise three separate fields extending from the Montana border northward and known respectively as Flathead, Crowsnest, and Elk Valley coalfields. These are the most important coalfields in the province having produced over 500 million tonnes of mainly metallurgical coal since 1898.

All the coal mined in the East Kootenay coalfields is extracted in open pit operations and is destined for export.

Canada’s coal supply chain operates under strict environmental and safety regulations that are among the most stringent in the world.

The industry adheres to regulatory permits and requirements set by authorities, including Federal, Provincial, Regional and Municipal governments and Port Metro Vancouver.

These provisions ensure that BC coal is produced, shipped, and managed in a safe manner.

Coal is an inert mineral that is not considered a dangerous or hazardous material by Transport Canada and is safely handled by thousands of workers every day.

COAL ECONOMY - Coal generates over $3.2 billion annually in economic activity in B.C.  Coal creates over 26,000 B.C. jobs in mining, transport, equipment, and other related sectors.

Coal produces about $715 million in public revenues for all levels of government that go to support critical services such as health care and education.

Coal is Port Metro Vancouver’s principal export and accounts for approximately 25% of the Port’s total volume each year.

There are over 4,000 employees in the coal industry in the Elk Valley with the average wage of $95,000 a year.

Teck Resources alone infuses over $1 billion annually into the B.C. and over $470 million of that into the Metro Vancouver area per year.

COAL IS NECESSARY – Steelmaking coal, which comprises of approximately 65% of the coal mined in BC, is a key ingredient in the production of steel, which is critical to many of the things society relies on daily including but not limited to buildings, vehicles, rapid transit and everyday household items.

COAL IS GREEN – Steel plays a critical role in green energy production. Whether it is a wind turbine, solar panel, tidal power system or bio-energy infrastructure – it all requires steel. For example, 100 tonnes of steelmaking coal is required to produce the 185 tonnes of steel used in a typical wind turbine.

COAL POWERS THE WORLD – Worldwide, the use of coal as an energy source remains crucial to many developed and developing countries. 40 percent of the world’s population still relies on coal for energy – for light, heat and other necessary daily needs.

Today, the world’s electricity is created from the following sources

  • 42% coal
  • 21% natural gas
  • 15% hydroelectric
  • 14% nuclear
  • 5% oil
  • 3% other renewables



David D. Hull, Executive Director

250 426 5914

Opinion: There’s more than one story about coal

Posted April 30, 2015

Vancouver Sun

April 30, 2015

The coal industry too often is gratuitously demonized by groups telling a one-sided story about a sector that is crucial to B.C.’s economy.

Criticism has gone into overdrive of late as Port Metro Vancouver considered then approved last August a controversial $15 million coal-loading facility at Fraser Surrey Docks.

Environmentalists, along with the Fraser Health Authority’s chief medical health officer and local citizens balked at dust and diesel fumes associated with the coal transport, specifically what they viewed as toxic dust blowing off rail cars.

This, despite a report from Golder Associates, a ground engineering and environmental consulting firm, which had found “no significant adverse environmental effects, including health effects,” that could not be mitigated.

Further, Westshore Terminals, the largest coal terminal on the continent’s west coast, has operated for 44 years without recording serious harmful effects, including on marine life around the coal operations.

And so, now, several B.C. union organizations are joining forces in response to attacks on their industry. A website,, has been created and union representatives are telling their side of the story to media outlets.

A prominent point they make, one hard to dismiss, is that they’ve witnessed no evidence of harm among their membership, either from the mining or transport of coal.

“Union members are working up to their knees in coal every day — mining, running coal trains and loading coal directly onto ships — with no negative health effects …

“If there were problems our unions would be the first to sound the alarm and demand changes to protect members,” they say. Any claims that coal dust kills Canadians or is harming children living nearby coal activities, they contend, are “nonsense.”

Coal plants do produce sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide emissions and the unions are hopeful new carbon capture and storage technologies being tested at a plant in Estevan, Sask. will be helpful in future.

It also should be remembered, nine out of the 10 B.C. mines produce metallurgical coal, cleaner than thermal coal and used in steel making. It makes possible goods like cellphones, surgical instruments and subway cars, even turbines used in windmills.

As for thermal coal, a good part of the world would go dark without it.

Coal has been good to this province, which produces 40 per cent of the Canadian supply of the commodity. More than 20 per cent of exports from Vancouver’s port involve coal shipments. The sector is responsible for 26,000 direct and indirect jobs in B.C.

The century-old sector creates $3.2 billion in economic activity annually in B.C., generating $715 million in tax revenues for the province and its municipalities.

Full consideration of all aspects of the coal story should be taken into account before strong opinions are formed.

Click here to see the original article on the Vancouver Sun website.

Union leaders promote cleaner image for B.C. coal

Posted January 30, 2015

Painting the tops of coal piles green and then putting them onto rail cars might get the public to think differently about B.C. coal.

That was among several messages which trade union leaders brought to a meeting of The Province editorial board on Thursday.

The leaders said they were stepping forward because the industry has been victimized by scare stories and they don’t feel the public realizes how much coal-related taxes contribute to schools and hospitals.

“People often say ‘That’s not coal there, that’s gold,’ “ said Mark Gordienko, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. “There are about 50,000 jobs in B.C. associated with coal and the average wage is about $90,000.”

Union leaders said discussions need to be held between environmentalists and the industry about the future of fossil fuels.

“We all know there is a balance here. We just haven’t figured out what it is yet,” said Stephen Hunt, western Canadian director for the United Steelworkers.

The tops of coal cars are currently covered with a clear acrylic coating, which serves to seal them shut during the journey to West Coast ports.

A colour change to green would help because the public would realize measures are in place to protect them from coal dust, they said.

The leaders said the most unfounded scare story was the one about coal dust killing children.

“Some environmentalists have made outrageous claims which have never been backed up,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director of B.C. Building Trades. “The one about coal dust killing children was nonsense.”

The leaders say the questions about B.C. coal only make sense when the larger world is taken into account.

“I was in China recently and you couldn’t see across the street because of all the crud that was being burned,” said Sigurdson. “Our coal is many times cleaner. We’re not going to shut down China or India. The discussions we have will not include talk about our industry shutting down.

“We know we’re going to be using fossil fuels 50 or 60 years out. We’ve got to find ways to capture carbon,” said Sigurdson.

A representative of an environment group admitted that an industry-wide shutdown in B.C. would serve no one.

Kevin Washbrook, director of a non-profit called Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, said that B.C.’s steelmaking coal is cleaner-burning than the thermal coal which is used for power generation.

“We acknowledge right now that there are no alternatives here in B.C.,” said Washbrook.

“We need to get through the post fossil-fuel era. We’d like to see them take a more upfront role in acknowledging the problems,” he said.

Click here to see the original article, with video, on The Province website.


The Province
Kent Spencer

Gordienko: Balanced resource management is key

Posted January 6, 2015

British Columbians support responsible resource development. They believe a balance can be struck between protecting the environment and growing our economy. They’re willing to listen to a variety of viewpoints, and want more information about how we can safely advance this industry.

These are several of the recurring themes that arose from a series of community conversations hosted by Resource Works. The idea was to explore the views of residents across Metro Vancouver toward responsible resource development. According to Resource Works, the natural resource industry is the second largest sector of the B.C. economy. One out of every 10 working British Columbians has a job that directly or indirectly relies on the resource sector.

In Metro Vancouver, just seven resource firms studied spent $1.3 billion worth in 2013 alone, with more than 1,650 supplier companies working with these firms to support the sector.

As a member of the Resource Works’ advisory board, I wanted to see for myself what kind of result we would get with the community conversations.

What struck me most was the pragmatic, forward-looking tone that I encountered by those who attended these discussions – a stark contrast to the divisive and non-negotiable positions often portrayed in the media.

A report summarizing the main findings of the community conversations was recently released. It reveals that British Columbians have clear ideas about how we, as a province, can move forward.

Participants felt that local communities and First Nations should be engaged for these groups to have a voice in relevant decisions and enjoy benefits from nearby resource development.

They stressed there must be a balance between environmental protection and economic gain, recognizing the two are not mutually exclusive and it is possible to achieve both.

The community conversations also emphasized that industry should constantly strive to innovate, and government should seek ways to promote trust and transparency in its regulatory processes.

As a member of the ILWU who has worked the docks of B.C. ports for decades, I am certain the good news is that many of these ideas are already being implemented and embraced as best practices by industry and government alike.

Take Port Metro Vancouver, for instance, which is integral to the resource sector.

Natural resource products accounted for more than 70 per cent of goods handled by the port in 2013. However, to accommodate anticipated increases in cargo volumes – a sign of robust economic growth and, indeed, a “good challenge” for this province to have – a suitable supply of industrial land must be available in the region.

As such, the port has proposed the creation of an Industrial Land Reserve (ILR) to preserve existing industrial land and relieve pressure on converting agricultural land for other uses.

The ILR would be designed through broad consultation with, and provide clarity to, local communities and First Nations about the port’s intended land use. The port also protects sensitive environmental areas and habitats around its operations, invests in new technologies and makes more efficient use of its existing land base – all key steps called for by residents of the Lower Mainland.

The efforts undertaken by the port to responsibly manage its growth are just one example of how we can move toward sustainable prosperity. But as the community conversations highlight, more can and must be done to foster a productive public dialogue.

That includes bringing a diverse group of individuals and viewpoints to the table, including, in particular, First Nations.

It means basing discussions about resource development on facts and credible information, a vacuum that Resource Works – a non-partisan, non-profit, research-driven organization – has already begun to fill. Lastly, it means shifting away from knee-jerk “no” reactions to an open, honest and constructive dialogue about “how” we can responsibly develop our natural resources.

The community conversations were an important beginning. They showed British Columbians support resource development, when done properly, and identified several ways forward. My hope is that this province will start taking these next steps together – respectfully, deliberately and based upon common ground.

Mark Gordienko is president of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada and a member of the Resource Works Advisory Council.

The Province
Mark Gordienko

Gordienko, Hunt, Cochrane and Sigurdson: Environmentalists get facts wrong about coal

Posted October 27, 2014

“I look at it from the perspective of the importance of coal… terms of employment, it’s huge here but I would remind city folk that it provides employment also for people in the Greater Vancouver area.”

— Sparwood Mayor Lois Halko

While there has been much attention and controversy surrounding a small, proposed coal terminal — Fraser Surrey Docks — the larger picture of how important coal mining and exports are to British Columbia’s economy is being missed.

Our unions’ members are the coal miners and workers who ship steelmaking coal from B.C. to markets overseas, where steel is made to produce everything from cellphones to wind turbines to subway cars to surgical equipment.

B.C.’s coal sector employs 26,000 people directly and indirectly, creates $3.2 billion in economic activity and generates $715 million in tax revenues for the province and B.C. cities and towns every year.

In other words, coal pays for hospitals, schools, roads and other public services.

Some object to coal based on misinformed health concerns — and yet all of our unions have members working closely with coal daily but do not see any negative health impacts.

How is it that workers — sometimes up to their knees in coal — mining, running coal trains and loading coal directly onto ships are all healthy for decades and yet “experts” tell the public to beware of the “dangers” of coal dust?

Our unions are responsible for our members’ health and safety — if coal caused illnesses, as claimed, we would know and would have acted long ago.

To be sure, in the early days of coal mining before modern equipment and precautions were introduced, it was a very dangerous job. Today it’s still tough and there are some risks but safety has improved incredibly.

Today’s coal industry in B.C. creates family-supporting jobs all over the province — including Metro Vancouver — and is a big part of our economy.

Surprising to many, Canada’s total coal mined is less than one per cent of world production.

And in B.C., the overwhelming majority of coal we produce is metallurgical or steelmaking coal, which most environmentalists understand is essential to making steel.

Our terminals also ship a much smaller amount of thermal coal to Asia, where it is used to generate electricity for heat and light.

Thermal coal power is more controversial because of its emissions in comparison to other sources of electrical generation. That’s why the new SaskPower coal-fired generating plant in Estevan, Saskatchewan, that opened in September is so exciting.

The Boundary Dam project is the world’s first large-scale coal plant to use carbon capture and storage technology to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by 100 per cent and CO2 emissions by 90 per cent per year, cutting one million tonnes of greenhouse gas a year.

That the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road!

And the plant produces 110 net megawatts of energy — enough to power 100,000 Saskatchewan homes.

The SaskPower plant is drawing international attention from China, Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

“Coal-fired power is very significant for Europe,” Graeme Sweeney, a European Commission adviser says. “In fact, over the last couple of years, the amount of coal-fired power usage has risen rather than fallen. I think we should see a lot of people from Europe want to come and see this.”

The new technology is expensive — the Boundary Dam project cost $1.4 billion to complete — but it is an extremely important first step.

In a world where coal provides a staggering 42 per cent of all electricity used today and non-hydro renewable energy accounts for less than five per cent, developing carbon capture systems is critical. It’s especially true given that the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates world energy consumption will rise by 56 per cent by 2040 and fossil fuels will continue supplying nearly 80 per cent of it.

Will we see a day where no coal is mined or shipped from B. C.? That is the goal of some well-meaning but misguided environmentalists who dismiss the negative impact on our members and our province if that were to occur.

Coal is critical today to the world economy. And in the future, with improving technology, it can become a cleaner fuel for producing both steel and energy.

For more information on B.C.’s coal industry, go to

Mark Gordienko is president, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada; Steve Hunt is director, United Steel Workers District 3; Brian Cochrane is business manager, International Union of Operating Engineers  Local 115; and Tom Sigurdson is executive director, B.C. Building Trades.

Click here to see the original article in The Province.

The Province
Mark Gordienko
Steve Hunt
Brian Cochrane
Tom Sigurdson
October 26, 2014

Workers in coal industry suffer no negative health effects, says union leader

Posted October 9, 2014

Re: Coal dust seen as serious environmental threat: poll, Oct. 6,

I was stunned to see The Vancouver Sun story quoting a poll that wrongly claimed that coal dust is a “serious environmental threat” without any explanation, scientific proof or response from those who work in the coal industry and clearly disagree.

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are working up to their knees in coal every day with no negative health effects. Other unions whose members either mine or transport coal by rail will agree.

If there were problems, our union would be the first to sound the alarm and demand changes to protect members. But our health and safety records show that ILWU members have worked in direct contact with massive amounts of coal for decades with no negative impact on their health.

Yet we hear from critics claiming that coal dust “kills Canadians” in over the top statements with no basis in fact.

Our members working with coal are more than willing to debate the issue — but only based on reality, not wild and unsubstantiated claims from opponents.

Your story says that “Just 43 per cent of respondents said they were confident the coal would be handled properly and without problems” while not mentioning that 49 per cent disagreed, a gap of just six per cent in a poll with a margin of error of 3.7 per cent.

In other words, regardless of the biased presentation of the question in the poll, public opinion is still split, without any contrary facts given about the safety of coal.

We are disappointed that The Vancouver Sun would run this story that unfairly alarms the public and attacks the hard work our members do as part of the over $3-billion-a-year coal contributes to B.C.’s economy while disregarding fundamental information.

MARK GORDIENKO, President, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Click here to view the original letter in the Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Sun
Mark Gordienko

WORKING WITH COAL: Unions and Companies Launch New Online Campaign on Importance of Coal in B.C. for Jobs and the Economy

Posted August 27, 2014

Vancouver, B.C. —Unions and companies in B.C.’s coal industry have launched a new website profiling the women and men who work with coal, sharing personal stories and facts about the importance of coal mining, transportation and export for jobs and the province’s economy.

The new website highlights how the industry benefits workers’ lives, their families and the communities where they live and work. It also addresses common misconceptions about health and safety in the coal industry. The site includes short videos from union and company leaders and front line women and men who work in B.C.’s coal industry. In the weeks ahead more personal stories will be added, featuring coal miners and others along B.C.’s coal supply chain.

“These videos let coal industry workers directly share their personal stories about the benefits of B.C.’s coal industry and the misinformation some people may have about coal,” said Mark Gordienko, President of the Canadian International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).  “Our union and other unions that work in the coal supply chain want to make it clear that there is no evidence of any health impacts for our members, who work with coal every day and have been for decades.”

Denis Horgan, Vice President and General Manager of Westshore Terminals, says the new website demonstrates the importance of the industry to the B.C. economy, local communities, and to the 26,000 hard-working men and women who depend on it for their livelihoods.

“British Columbia has been built and prospers today thanks to the development of our natural resources, like coal,” said Horgan.

“Our B.C. coal industry has operated safely and responsibly for decades, and has been one of the economic engines for our province. These videos present the faces and voices of the women and men who are the backbone of our industry and provide an important perspective on the importance of coal to families across B.C.”

“We are thrilled that workers’ stories are finally being told and we hope people will take the time to hear them,” he said.

Unions supporting include the ILWU, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115, the B.C. Building Trades, the United Steelworkers and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.

These videos are supported by the mines, railways, terminals and unions that help keep British Columbia prosperous.


For more information:

Alan Fryer
Tel: 778-987-5523