Canada’s federal government issued a policy statement on new thermal coal mines and expansion projects. In short, the federal government’s position is that new thermal coal mining projects, or expansions of existing thermal coal mines in Canada, are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects. In addition, the federal government considers such projects as being inconsistent with Canada’s emission reduction commitments under the Paris agreement. Canada recently announced a more ambitious national emissions reduction target under the Paris agreement of 40%-45% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.

The policy statement builds on earlier efforts to address emissions from thermal coal, which the government said contributes approximately 30% of global carbon emissions.

Together with the United Kingdom, Canada is a co-founder of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA). In 2018, the federal government introduced regulations to phase out conventional coal-fired electricity across Canada by 2030. The federal government estimates that the phase-out of coal-fired electricity will eliminate 12.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere in 2030.

The government said the Policy Statement will inform federal decision-making on thermal coal mining projects. In order for a project to move forward under the Impact Assessment Act (IAA), the minister of environment and climate change (or governor in council) must determine that the effects within federal jurisdiction likely to be caused by a project are in the public interest. This decision is informed by, among other things, whether the project contributes to sustainability, and whether it hinders or contributes to Canada’s ability to meet its commitments in respect of climate change.

In parallel to the release of the policy statement, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson informed Coalspur Mines Ltd. that the policy will apply to the consideration of its proposed thermal coal mine expansion at the Vista Coal mine near Hinton, Alberta.