The coal debate couldn’t get any bigger than in Canada at Port Metro Vancouver. A port that claims to be the largest exporter in North America based on export tonnage, trading $75 billion in goods annually, has planned a $200-million expansion at North Vancouver’s Neptune Bulk Terminals, looking to double the coal capacity at the facility.

While environmental groups certainly have screamed for the expansion to cease—as they have in Washington State over multiple proposals there—the port doesn’t need to walk the project through federal environmental permitting, since no actual new terminals will be constructed. Instead, the plan needs only port approval, based on internal reviews. It has received that.

Neptune’s project proposals include replacing older equipment and updating terminal infrastructure to expand coal capacity at its existing terminal.

In 2011, Port Metro Vancouver handled more than 122 million metric tonnes of cargo, including more than 32 million metric tonnes of coal. Approximately 67 percent of that coal is British Columbia-mined metallurgical—or steel-making—coal, making Port Metro Vancouver the second largest exporter of coal in North America. That coal largely comes from mines in eastern British Columbia. Coal exports have grown 35 percent from 2009 to 2011 at Neptune.

The Neptune project, aiming for a 2014 completion, will increase capacity from 8.5 million tonnes to 18.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal. While not as controversial as thermal coal, Port Metro Vancouver has that issue in front of them too, having yet to unveil a ruling on whether it will expand its Fraser Surrey Docks to ship more of that type of coal, creating a total portwide coal export of more than 50 million tonnes annually.

Fraser Surrey Dock’s project proposal would develop a direct-transfer coal facility, which would include handling coal, a new product for the existing terminal. Should this project proceed, coal would be shipped via rail to the terminal then loaded to a barge for shipment to Texada Island for overseas export.

Neptune handles potash, steelmaking coal, bulk vegetable oils, fertilizers and agricultural products in the City of North Vancouver.

In a statement, the port wrote: 

“Port Metro Vancouver’s mandate is set out in the Canada Marine Act, and includes contributing to the competitiveness, growth and prosperity of the Canadian economy, providing a high level of safety and environmental protection, and managing the marine infrastructure and services in a commercial manner that encourages, and takes into account input from users and its bordering communities. In order to meet this mandate, Port Metro Vancouver upholds the highest standards of project review, dictated by the nature of a proposed project and related to the handling and movement of goods.”

It also directs people with an issue about the coal to talk to the Canadian government. For now, though, expect more coal coming from Vancouver.