Coal “will likely play a role in the Nova Scotian electricity system until at least 2042,” when the last coal unit at Nova Scotia Power’s (NSP) 325-megawatt Point Aconi generating station in Cape Breton is scheduled to end its normal economic life, the report said.

“During this period, other, older coal units will likely be used on a seasonal basis,” the report added. “Therefore, there is a window of opportunity for some amount of domestic coal — from Donkin or other mines — to be used in the province for the next 25 years if the economics of burning domestic coal are in the best interest of ratepayers.”

NSP, also based in Halifax and the dominant electric utility in the province, has expressed an interest in burning Donkin coal. The utility is expected to conduct a test burn of Donkin coal sometime in early 2016. Cline/Kameron also are eyeing overseas markets.

In addition to Point Aconi, NSP operates the 620-megawatt Lingan and 154-megawatt Point Tupper coal plants in Cape Breton and the 308-megawatt Trenton coal plant in Trenton, Nova Scotia. Lingan, northeast of Glace Bay and within an easy 25 miles or so truck haul from Donkin, is thought to be the most likely domestic destination for the mine’s coal. At least some of Lingan’s four coal units are scheduled to run until 2029. The lone Point Aconi unit, meanwhile, should operate until around 2042.

The reality, the report said, “is that Nova Scotia’s coal plants still exist. Their life can be extended well into the future, and even as they run less often, they play a key role in system operations. At a minimum, ratepayers are committed to pay for NSP generating systems until those systems reach the end of their current economic life. In some cases that date is near, but in other cases it is decades away.”