Potential utilization of Canadian thermal coal in Japan

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 802, 1979

P. LAFLEUR, Minerals, Metals and Energy Counsellor Canadian Embassy, Tokyo, Japan

All indications point to a growing market for thermal coal in Japan as part of the country's current energy policy formulation process. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry forecasts imports of 16 million tons a year in 1985 and 40 million tons in 1990—a twenty-fold and forty-fold increase over the present level. This potential reflects Japan's over-all serious and increasing concern for security of energy supplies and its resultant need to seek alternative sources. Nuclear power will be the main alternative source, but, because it is expected that its development will be slow, imported thermal coal will assume greater importance.Canada, with large resources of all types of coal, could fill a portion of this market. Thermal coal could come from specific thermal coal developments or from metallurgical coal mines, which usually produce a certain amount of coal not amenable to coking, but suitable for power purposes. However, penetration of this Japanese market by Canadian thermal coal will depend on the resolution of a number of problems. On the demand side, siting, environmental aspects, the need for a coal unloading and trans-shipment centre, and the added cost of installing coal-fired stations could be major constraints.Although Canada has ample high-quality resources, any new development tied to the Japanese market will require improvement in prices to cover the high costs associated with transportation, the construction of new mines and the provision of new infrastructure.