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Indian steel industry looks to BC for coal

The B.C. government might have high hopes for natural gas, but coal is still king in this province.

Last week, the newly-minted international trade minister Teresa Wat and Premier Christy Clark met with a delegation from India to discuss coal trade.

India is the fourth-largest steel producer in the world, and demand for coking coal – which is used to manufacture steel – is on the rise. According to Reuters, India is expected to import 35 million tonnes of coking coal this year.

Minister Wat signed a cooperation agreement with the managing director of a steel plant in Visakhapatnam, a port city on India's southeast coast.

According to an article in the Indian Express, "the agreement expresses the intent to promote and expand bilateral cooperation in the minerals and mining sector, to explore and encourage investment opportunities, development and exploration of mining related projects and exchange of technological research and innovation.”

Various possibilities of sourcing coal from British Columbia, equity participation in coal assets, coal asset acquisition & other areas of interest were discussed at the meeting. The delegation also had a series of discussions with the coal asset owners and various avenues for sourcing coking coal to India to meet its ever-growing requirement."

In 2011, there were nine mines producing coking coal, also known as metallurgical coal, in British Columbia and only one producing thermal coal, a lower-value product burned for energy.

Earlier this year, an application for another metallurgical coal mine, the Raven mine, was rejected by B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office.

However, "while we were all busy watching the 2013 B.C. Election..." notes political blogger Laila Yuile, 18 additional coal mine license applications in the Comox Valley were filed within a two-week period leading up to the election. The applications were publicized on the website of the Coal Watch Comox Valley Society, a citizens' group that led a campaign against the Raven mine.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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