A Tale of Two Coals

Of the 60 million tonnes of coal Canada produces each year, just over half is thermal coal, the variety of coal used for power generation. The other, lesser-known coal that Canada produces in almost equal measure is metallurgical coal. Metallurgical coal, also known as met coal, coking coal, or steelmaking coal, is a vital ingredient for making steel, iron alloy, carbon and other metals used in everything from buildings, tools, trains, planes, and automobiles, to cookware, cutlery, surgical tools and implants.

Steelmaking coal has characteristics that make it ideal for heating and transform it into coke, the carbon source needed to make steel. Metallurgical-grade coal is heated to over 1000 degrees Celsius in the absence of oxygen, and then quickly cooled in water or air to produce a hard, porous brick of carbon known as coke. The coke is fed into a blast furnace with iron ore and a handful of other ingredients to make molten iron, which is then mixed (alloyed) with other metals to make the many diverse types of steel that are the backbone of our everyday lives.

Read the full story: The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan