The Canadian government said it will step in to conduct an environmental review of any new coal project that could possibly release the contaminant selenium. The decision will deal with any proposals that emerge from the eight steelmaking coal exploration projects in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain foothills, said Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

President of the Coal Association of Canada Robin Campbell said he understands and acknowledges the concerns surrounding selenium. “The industry has, and will continue to adopt, a ‘multiple line of defense’ approach that is part of the mine design process,” he said. “We are confident these approaches will satisfy both provincial and federal requirements.”

The association will provide a detailed analysis and recommendations on selenium management via an expert report prepared by Guy Gilron and Gord McKenna. This report will be appended to its submission to Alberta’s Coal Policy Committee.

Campbell also responded to the government’s position to not approve new thermal coal mining or plans to expand existing mines.

He said he was “concerned” the new policy doesn’t reflect the progress that has been made on Carbon Capture, Storage and Use (CCSU) technology. “We are already seeing positive results from CCSU technology in Canada and this can allow coal to remain an affordable part of the energy mix while meeting climate goals,” he said.

Coal powers more than one-third of global electricity generation, and this is expected to continue until at least 2040.

And, according to Campbell, Canadian coal is extremely high quality and low sulphur relative to world standards. “The loss of coal from Canada will likely to be replaced by production from other countries that do not have the same commitment to our high standards,” he added.