Falling price of coal hits B.C. miners hard

How much do B.C.’s minerals go for? A breakdown of revenues from different commodities over the last two years

Plus, Gregor’s duplex goes on the market and 2014 was not a good year to be a coal miner’s daughter

King coal
The slippery price of coal slashed profits and jobs for B.C. miners last year, and the forecast for 2015 isn’t much better. Mining revenues slipped to $8.2 billion in 2014 from $8.5 billion in 2013, but the real loss was in profits. In sum, profits from mining fell from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $288 million last year, according to PwC’s annual mining survey published Tuesday.

“A few years ago we said coal was king. Not so much last year,” said Karina Briño, president and CEO of the Mining Association of B.C. Thanks to a global oversupply and slowing demand in China for steel-making coal, prices fell to $126 per tonne from $160 per tonne the year before. Revenues from coal fell from $2.5 billion in 2012 to $2.2 billion last year. Shipments, however, have remained stable for the last three years.

As the price of coal has fallen, so has its dominance of B.C.’s mining sector. Steel-making coal accounted for one-third of all revenues from mining last year—the same as copper—down from 43 per cent the year before. Low prices eventually forced three mines in B.C.’s northwest to temporarily shut down and cut around one thousand jobs.

Barge haulers
When it comes to shipping coal, B.C. has a roundabout way of getting it overseas. From the coal mines along the Alberta border, coal is shipped by train to the Lower Mainland, where it is loaded on a barge and then floated up the Strait of Georgia to an open pit staging ground on sleepy Texada Island. There, it’s stored before being loaded again for passage across the Pacific.

That journey could get significantly shorter if Fraser Surrey Docks gets its way. The dock owner is recommending loading coal directly onto ships at its terminal instead of sending it to Texada Island—a move that CEO Jeff Scott says will cut operating costs.

Fit for a mayor 
For $1.8 million you could live like the mayor of Vancouver. Or not. There are probably better things you could do with that money (like a six-bedroom 1890 Victorian in New West). But if you really want to eat from the same counters as Gregor Robertson, and you’re in the market for a 1,600-sq.-ft. duplex a block off Point Grey Road, then do we have a property for you.