Coal and minerals

Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels in the world. It has many important uses, most significantly in electricity generation, steel and cement manufacturing, and industrial process heating. Among nations, Canada is ranked in the top ten for coal, with an estimated 37 billion tons of coal reserves. The majority of those reserves are located in the province of Alberta.

Alberta's Clean Coal

Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock with greater than 50 per cent organic matter. Coal occurs in many formations across central and southern Alberta, with lower energy-content coals in the plains region, shifting to higher-energy-content coals in the mountain region.

Alberta's coal consists primarily of bituminous and sub-bituminous forms. Coal mined in Alberta is generally low in sulphur and therefore burns relatively cleanly compared to many coals mined in other parts of the world.

Alberta’s total marketable coal production in 2010 was 35 million tons, most of which is subbituminous coal destined for mine mouth power plants.

Coal Extraction Methods

Most of Alberta's coal is extracted using surface mining techniques. With open-pit mines, as mining progresses, the pits are widened and deepened. Typically, a number of different pits are developed one after the other.

Strip mining is where coal seams are fairly horizontal and close to the surface. Large machinery exposes and extracts the coal in a series of rows called strips.

mineral excavation

Non-Energy Minerals

There are a number of minerals excavated and mined in four major quarries in Alberta for uses other than energy production. Some of these non-energy minerals include:

  • ammonite
  • diamonds
  • gold
  • iron and magnetite
  • limestone and other building stone
  • salt
  • sand, gravel, clay and shale
  • sulphur

Salt and limestone continue to be the leading non-fuel minerals produced in Alberta

For more information on coal or minerals, please see:

  • Alberta Department of Energy: The Alberta Department of Energy is responsible for ensuring the responsible development of Alberta's natural energy resources.
  • Coal Association of Canada: The Coal Association of Canada is based in Calgary, Alberta, and works to represents the interests of companies active in coal extraction, development and use.

For more information on Alberta’s energy resources, see: