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Streetwise Mining fire sale: Alberta coal company sold for $2

Grande Cache Coal Corporation. North Pit Coal excavation.

Handout/Grande Cache Coal Corporation

The Asian owners of an Alberta coal miner are selling the company for two U.S. dollars, after paying $1-billion for the asset at the height of the commodity boom.

The fire sale of Calgary-based Grande Cache Coal to a Chinese mining company comes after a sharp drop in metallurgical coal prices.

Met coal, used to make stainless steel, is worth around $120 per tonne, down from a high of $300 in 2011. The drop comes amid a glut of supply and fears of China's slowing economy.

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The lower metallurgical coal price, along with the slump in another steel-making ingredient, iron ore, has triggered a wave of mine closures and job losses in Canada from British Columbia to Ontario, to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Three years ago, amid a flurry of acquisitions in the mining industry, Japan's Marubeni Corp. and China's Winsway Coking Coal Holdings Ltd. paid a 70 per cent premium for the Alberta coal company.

Today, the Asian companies are selling their stakes in Grande Cache Coal to China's Up Energy Development Group for $1 each.

Winsway, which will retain a 17 per cent interest in the company, will have the right to buy back a stake in the Alberta company under certain conditions. Marubeni will also have the right to buy back a position.

The sale is symptomatic of the slump in commodity prices. Other Canadian companies, including Kinross Gold Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp., have had to record massive write-downs associated with expensive acquisitions, made when the price of gold was making record highs.

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