Restrictions on coal mining in Alberta’s mountains not as rock-solid as originally thought

Despite a ban, a new application for coal mining exploration has been sent to the Alberta Energy Regulators. As Jillian Code reports, some are concerned this will open the door to more coal mining projects.

Restrictions on coal mining in Alberta’s rocky mountains might not be as rock-solid as originally thought, as an application for a new coal mining development in the Crowsnest Pass area has been filed and is awaiting approval.

The company, Northback Holdings, was previously turned down by the federal and provincial government, and after outcry, the province reinstated an order forbidding coal activity on those lands.

The restriction was that no new applications for coal mining in the eastern slopes would be accepted, with the exception of advanced coal projects.

Minister of Energy and Minerals Brian Jean told CityNews that an environmental impact assessment for the Grassy Mountain Project was filed several years before the restriction was put into place, which qualified it as an advanced coal project.

“That really brings into question if the AER is following the ministerial order. I’m also quite concerned to hear the minister of energy and minerals talk about this being an exempt project because it really begs the question then of what the power of the ministerial order is,” said executive director, Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society, Southern Alberta Region Katie Morrison.

She says this exploration application could be a slippery slope to allowing additional coal projects in the mountains.

Alberta musician Corb Lund has been outspoken against coal developments in the mountains, and is encouraging Albertans to reach out to the government.

“I want to hear from our ag people, our ranchers, our irrigated farmers who know we’re in the middle of a crippling drought and we don’t have any extra water allocations to give coal mines upstream,” he said. “We don’t.
“And it’s also the drinking water for 150,000 as well as the cornerstone of a billion-dollar agri-business, agri-food business in Southern Alberta.”

But not everyone is opposed — residents in the Crowsnest Pass say economic diversification in the area is lacking, and this could help.

“If a company can come into our community and mine our resources responsibly, then we’re going to support them,” said Crowsnest Pass resident and member of Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal. Carmen Linderman. “We’re concerned about the water too, we’re concerned about the environment too. Our kids swim in the rivers, we go fishing — we recreate in the mountains.”

The Alberta Energy Regulator says the project is under review, and the company would have to make another application for development before any processes in the mountains begins.

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