Grassy Mountain coal project ‘not in the public interest,’ Alberta review panel says

Grassy Mountain coal project 'not in the public interest,' Alberta review panel says

A evaluate panel for the Alberta Power Regulator has denied the provincial utility for the Grassy Mountain coal undertaking, ruling the undertaking is “not within the public curiosity.”

“The panel’s resolution displays the AER’s dedication to creating evidence-based and risk-informed choices within the public curiosity,” mentioned Laurie Pushor, president and CEO of the Alberta Power Regulator, in a launch.

In a press release, Power Minister Sonya Savage and Setting and Parks Minister Jason Nixon mentioned they revered the panel’s advice.

“All proposed coal initiatives are topic to stringent evaluate to make sure improvement is secure, environmentally accountable and meets all necessities,” the assertion reads.

“On this case, the method labored because it ought to. The panel’s advice demonstrates that Alberta’s legislative and regulatory framework is powerful and completely considers environmental impacts as a part of any useful resource improvement undertaking.”

Venture was within the works for years

Communities within the Crowsnest Move have been constructed round coal mining greater than 100 years in the past and the trade was the world’s lifeblood for a lot of the 20th century.

A number of main coal mines nonetheless function simply to the west, in British Columbia’s Elk Valley, however the area’s final mine on the Alberta facet of the border closed in 1983.

The plan for the proposed Grassy Mountain undertaking, situated roughly seven kilometres north of Blairmore, was to select up the place a earlier mine had left off. A piece of the 1,500-hectare web site has already been disturbed by earlier mining exercise many years in the past.

Building tools close to Grassy Mountain, with Crowsnest Mountain within the background. The Alberta Power Regulator says the coal undertaking will not be within the public curiosity and has denied the provincial purposes. (CBC)

Australia-based Riversdale Assets submitted a proposal to regulators in 2016 for the undertaking, which it estimates may produce 4.5 million tonnes of steel-making coal yearly over the mine’s 23-year lifespan.

The corporate estimates this could have created practically 400 full-time jobs.

Different Australian coal corporations had been watching carefully, as they ramped up exploration and drew up plans for mines of their very own.

“I’d say the trade is trying to the success of Riversdale’s undertaking, as a result of it is the primary within the Crowsnest Move space,” Atrum Coal’s then-CEO Max Wang instructed the Calgary Herald in 2018.

“There are fairly quite a lot of international traders, largely from Australia, taken with that area … however they’re very a lot trying to the success of Grassy Mountain.”

The distinction in coal-mining exercise between southwestern Alberta and southeastern B.C. dates again to Alberta’s Coal Improvement Coverage, which was adopted by premier Peter Lougheed’s authorities in 1976 with the twin targets of accelerating authorities royalties and defending delicate lands.

The UCP authorities rescinded that coverage final 12 months, sparking a backlash from a variety of Albertans, together with environmentalists, ranchers and tourism operators.

In February, the federal government backtracked and re-instated the Lougheed-era coverage in the interim, pending additional session.

Federal authorities additionally concerned

The Grassy Mountain undertaking was supported by the mayor of Crowsnest Move and lots of residents hoped it will carry high-paying jobs to an space of the province with few such employment alternatives.

However considerations have been raised throughout a listening to in regards to the probability the mine may contaminate headwaters of the Oldman River with selenium. The ingredient generally present in coal mines is poisonous to fish in giant doses, and has been linked to fish deaths and deformations downstream of mines simply to the west in B.C.

The Teck Elkford Operations open-pit coal mine in southeastern British Columbia, as seen from Mount Erickson. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

The evaluate panel additionally heard the mine would injury ecosystems and impair the cultural and bodily heritage of three native First Nations, though the council of the close by Piikani First Nation had formally supported the undertaking.

“The mitigation measures proposed usually are not ample to completely mitigate these results,” says the report.

The panel advises federal Setting Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to show the mine down. It has additionally denied the undertaking’s allow purposes underneath provincial legal guidelines.

The Grassy Mountain mine is the primary of quite a lot of coal initiatives which were proposed for the mountains and foothills of Alberta’s western boundary. At the least eight corporations have taken giant exploration leases.

John Smith, a rancher with the Plateau Cattle Firm, was amongst those that gathered on June 16, 2021, to protest towards permitting open-pit coal mining within the jap slopes of the Rocky Mountains. (Leah Hennel/CBC)

In April, nonetheless, the province introduced a suspension of coal exploration exercise in lands categorised as “Class 2” underneath the Lougheed-era coal coverage — once more, pending additional public session.

Class 2 lands have been topic to extra stringent restrictions, and open-pit mining was not usually allowed in these areas.

The Grassy Mountain undertaking, nonetheless, was situated on a piece of Class Four land, with fewer restrictions underneath the 1976 coverage.

Earlier this week, Wilkinson introduced that any proposals from these exploration leases could be topic to a federal environmental evaluate. He mentioned considerations about selenium prompted the transfer.

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