Canada launches strategic assessment of thermal coal mining

News release

December 20, 2019 – Gatineau, Quebec

Coal is one of the most significant sources of carbon emissions and air pollution in the world. Coal-fired electricity has significant adverse environmental and health impacts. Around 40 percent of the world’s electricity comes from burning coal, as well as ten percent of Canada’s. That is why the United Nations Secretary General has called for no new coal plants by 2020, and why Canada is phasing out traditional coal-fired power by 2030 with a just and fair transition for workers and communities.

Today, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, in partnership with Natural Resources Minister, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, announced that Canada will launch a strategic assessment to provide guidance on how future new thermal coal mine projects will be assessed under the Impact Assessment Act. Thermal coal is the coal used to generate electricity in power plants.

The strategic assessment will include, but not be limited to:

  • Environmental and health impacts of thermal coal mining;
  • Market analysis of projected demand for thermal coal, including economic impacts and impact on jobs in Canada; and
  • The use of thermal coal mining, including its impact on Canada’s international commitments and initiatives.

The Coalspur Vista Coal Mine Phase II Project—located in Hinton, Alberta—is undergoing an environmental assessment by the Province of Alberta. This project will not be designated for federal review under the Impact Assessment Act because it will be covered under the Provincial environmental assessment process, and the issues of Federal jurisdiction will be covered through other regulatory processes. If the project proceeds, it will be subject to all applicable federal regulations.

Draft terms of reference for the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining will be available online for public comments early in 2020.


“An important pillar of the Government of Canada’s plan to fight climate change is phasing out traditional coal power generation, while ensuring a just and fair transition for workers and communities. With the phase out of coal power, it is important to consider the future of thermal coal mining. This Strategic Assessment is the tool included in the Impact Assessment Act to do this.”
– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Quick facts

  • Thermal coal is used for generating power. In contrast, metallurgical coal is used primarily to make steel.

  • Section 95 of the Impact Assessment Act allows the Minister to authorize a strategic assessment of any issue that is relevant to conducting impact assessments of designated projects or of a class of designated projects.

  • Strategic assessments can offer guidance on how policies and measures, as well as domestic and international commitments, should be considered in an impact assessment.

  • Canada launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance in 2017, in partnership with the UK. Over the past two years, this group of governments and companies committed to phasing out coal power has grown to nearly 100 members.

Associated links


Sabrina Kim
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Twitter page

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Facebook page

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