King Coal is holding its head high again. Why? Because informed market-watchers are waking up to the fact that it's one of the shrewdest buys on the board.
Part of the reason is a term that's frequently in the news but not always well understood: clean coal.
But perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves. Suffice to say, coal is an abundant and cost-effective energy source, an amorphous carbon that represents 87 per cent of North America's hydrocarbon reserves.
Experts such as the management team that directs the fortunes of West Hawk Development Corp. (TSXVenture: WHD) pay close attention when informed industry insiders predict that this commodity has an excellent chance to triple in price within the next 10 years.
In an era of skyrocketing fuel prices, coal looks like the bargain of the century.
And not many exploration and development companies can offer the combination of extensive Western Canadian coal assets with the vision and experience brought to bear by the senior decision makers at West Hawk.
"We've got a lot of opportunities ahead of us. We're not wasting any time, we're moving forward in a systematic, logical way," explains company president and chairman Michael Townsend, who recently spearheaded a successful $3 million financing effort among backers in Europe and Eastern Canada.
"We've got people behind us who understand coal and who believe in coal," Townsend adds.
One of the newest members of the team, for example, brings an enormous amount of know-how and enthusiasm to the office every day.
He's Mark Hart, Ph.D., West Hawk's chief operating officer and a member of the board of directors. Hart speaks from the standpoint of an international mining engineer who has spent his entire career in the field and who sees a virtually limitless future for coal.
"I've been in coal all my life and I'm passionate about it," smiles Hart, who is particularly excited about West Hawk's long-range plans for gasification, i.e. clean coal.
If you're new to the concept, the first thing you need to know is that gasification is a tried-and-true technology. It works, as amply demonstrated by North Dakota's Great Plains Synfuels Plant. Opened in 1984 as part of the U.S. response to the energy crisis of the 1970s, the Dakota plant now converts neighbouring coal deposits into 54 billion standard cubic feet of synthetic and hydrogen-rich natural gas every year.
"Until recently, coal has had a terrible reputation as a dirty fuel," admits Hart, who works hand-in-hand with Townsend, as well as with West Hawk CEO Christopher Verrico.
"Yet it's such a cost-effective fuel source that 56 per cent of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from coal."
Of course, technology has come a long way towards cleaning up the smudged reputation that coal has been burdened with in the past. Truth is, the industry has made significant efforts to neutralize coal byproducts such as mercury, nitrogen and carbon dioxide since environmental protection lobbyists started applying pressure toward the end of the 1960s.
In addition, a recent TV ad campaign south of the border makes the accurate claim that by 2015, emissions from U.S. coal-based power plants will have dropped 75 per cent from levels recorded in 1970.
Technological breakthroughs mean it's now possible for companies such as West Hawk to capitalize on opportunities to combine coal, a low-cost fuel source that is readily accessible, with increasingly effective, environmentally friendly technology.
"Yes, that's a real driver for me. I can't tell you how excited I am about it," Hart sums up.
Gasification represents a major segment of the West Hawk business plan, one of the major driving forces that keep the corporation moving forward.
"This process makes sense in so many ways," Hart continues. "In a time of high energy prices, it's an economical option. And coal today, with gasification, is able to meet the most stringent emissions requirements laid down by Kyoto as well as the European Union."
West Hawk Developments is proud of its enormous asset base, with particular emphasis on a number of excellent plays in British Columbia, including Australia Creek, near Quesnel; the Groundhog Coal Field, including five main anthracite deposits in Northern B.C.; and 400 hectares of mineral licences at Coal Creek, west of Smithers.
There's no getting around this indisputable fact. Coal remains one of the most attractive energy sources on the planet.
And as demand continues to climb, it should be included in the portfolio of every prudent investor.
For further information, please access the West Hawk website (www.westhawkdevelopment.com) or contact the executive team directly via telephone: 1.604.669.9330.