Canada Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

01:30  18 june  2021
01:30  18 june  2021 Source:   thecanadianpress.com

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Coal mining has been controversial in Alberta for more than a year, since the province's United Conservative government revoked a 1976 policy that protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mines . Several First Nations, as well as municipalities and many Albertans, have asked the federal minister to Environmental groups consider federal reviews to be more rigorous than their provincial counterparts and offer more chances for public input. Wilkinson said the new policy will apply to any new mine , regardless of size. He said selenium's effects on fish justify federal involvement.

Proposed coal mine will ‘decapitate’ Grassy Mountain in southern Alberta : AWA. Calf Robe said the government is wrong to permit mining in environmentally and culturally sensitive areas for First Nations – particularly without consultation – and other groups such as ranching, fishing and tourism. “The (joint provincial-federal) impact assessment only looked at Grassy Mountain ,” she said . “It did not look at the cumulative impacts of all proposed coal mines in the area or the damages that exploration is currently having. “We are calling on the government of Canada to look at all projects not just on a

A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta's Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren't worth the economic benefits it would bring.

a field with a mountain in the background © Provided by The Canadian Press

"We are not confident about the technical and economic feasibility of some proposed mitigation measures," the report says.

"We find that this was particularly true for effects on surface water quality, westslope cutthroat trout (and fish and fish habitat more generally), and vegetation."

Riversdale Resources had proposed the Grassy Mountain project in southern Alberta's Crowsnest Pass region. The area has seen mining in the past.

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WATCH ABOVE: Public hearings for a proposed coal mine in the Crowsnest Pass are now underway. Opposition groups are voicing concerns over the project. Quinn Campbell reports – Oct 27, 2020. Riversdale Resources, proponent of the Grassy Mountain steel-making coal project near the town of Blairmore in the province’s southwest, says the mine would create two decades of solid employment and improve a site scarred by previous development. Environmental groups and some residents fear it could unleash toxic metals into the headwaters of the Oldman River watershed relied on by everything

But McPherson said the proof of how serious the Liberals are about protecting the Rockies will come shortly. A federal-provincial assessment panel is expected to deliver its recommendations on the proposed Grassy Mountain coal mine in southern Alberta and Wilkinson's decision is to follow. Environmental groups consider federal reviews to be more rigorous than their provincial counterparts and offer more chances for public input. Wilkinson said the new policy will apply to any new mine , regardless of size.

The mine, said Riversdale, would create about 500 jobs during two years of construction and 400 over the 23-year life of the mine. The company said it would pay $1.7 billion in royalties and $35 million in municipal taxes over that time.

It was supported by many in the town of Crowsnest Pass.

But concerns were raised during a hearing about the chance the mine could contaminate headwaters of the Oldman River with selenium. The element commonly found in coal mines is toxic to fish in large doses.

The review panel also heard the mine would damage ecosystems and impair the cultural and physical heritage of three local First Nations.

"The mitigation measures proposed are not sufficient to fully mitigate these effects," says the report.

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Alberta has reshaped a decades-old balance in the Rockies and Foothills, rescinding its 1976 Coal Development Policy, opening the door to more open-pit mines in the mountains . You might have heard that Alberta recently rescinded its 1976 coal policy, opening the door for more open-pit coal mines in the Rockies and Foothills. But what does that mean, exactly? This video breaks it down. It gives you the basics, in four minutes. If you want the more detailed version, check out our long-form story, here

Alberta ranchers and First Nations oppose the government's decision to revoke a coal policy from 1976 that blocked development on some parts of the eastern slopes of the Rockies . WATCH: A judicial review is underway in a Calgary courtroom in an effort to restore a policy protecting the Rocky mountains from coal mining . Ranchers and First Nations are going head to head with the provincial government over the controversial political decision. As Jill Croteau reports, they're fighting to protect fragile and sensitive lands from coal exploration.

The panel advises federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to turn the mine down. It has also denied the project's permit applications under provincial laws.

The Grassy Mountain mine is the first of a number of coal projects that have been proposed for the mountains and foothills of Alberta's western boundary. At least eight companies have taken large exploration leases.

Earlier this week, Wilkinson announced that any proposals from those exploration leases would be subject to a federal environmental review. He said concerns about selenium prompted the move.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2021.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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