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Energy and Resources Canadian coal production hit three-decade low last year as demand wanes

A coal mining operation in Sparwood, B.C., is shown on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The National Energy Board says Canadian coal production dropped to a three-decade low last year as demand waned.

Production came in at 60.4-million tonnes, a 12 per cent decline since 2013, and well off the peak of about 79 million tonnes reached in 1997, the NEB said Wednesday.

About half of Canadian production is thermal coal used in power generation, which is expected to see a steady decline as the country moves to largely phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030.

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The NEB expects that by 2040 coal production will drop to 34 million tonnes, with almost all remaining production focused on higher-quality metallurgical coal used to make steel.

Ottawa is working to phase out coal-fired power plants as part of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government is looking to have 90 per cent of Canada's electricity comes from non-emitting sources by 2030.

Ontario was one of the first jurisdictions in North America to eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation when it phased it out in 2014.

Alberta has also announced plans to gradually phase out its coal-fired power plants.

Bucking the trend, the Cline Group restarted thermal coal production at the Donkin mine in Cape Breton earlier this month after a 15-year hiatus.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order reversing many of former president Barack Obama's climate change policies, including emissions limits on coal-fired power plants, in an effort to boost the U.S. coal industry.

Teck Resources Ltd. said Wednesday that winter weather, transportation issues and lower sales affected coal production in January and February, but that it still expects to produce 27- to 28-million tonnes of metallurgical coal this year to make up the bulk of Canadian production.

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