By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
The local MLA said he wants the environment and water supply safe and protected.
Currently, there is a proposed coal development project, seven kilometres north of Blairmore in the Crowsnest Pass, which Roger Reid, MLA for Livingstone-Macleod is not opposed to, as long as it is environmentally responsible and will bring up to 400 jobs to the area.
“One of the things we ran on in the (2019 election) platform is responsible resource development,” said Reid.
The Grassy Mountain Coal Project is currently before provincial and federal regulators.
The project, as described by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, includes the construction, operation, and reclamation of an open-pit metallurgical coal mine near the Crowsnest Pass, approximately seven kilometres north of the community of Blairmore, in southwest Alberta on a legacy mining area.
The production capacity of the project would be a maximum of 4.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per year, over a mine-life of approximately 24 years. That is coking coal used in the production of steel.
It would include surface coal mine pits and waste rock disposal areas, a coal handling and processing plant with associated infrastructure, water management structures, an overland conveyor system, a rail load-out facility, and other facilities. The surface mine area of the project is approximately 2,800 hectares.
Benga Mining Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Riversdale Resources Limited is the proponent.
Reid noted the coal leases for this project were granted between 2012 and 2014, and the project has been involved in public consultation since May of 2015.
In 2020, the provincial government rescinded the 1976 coal policy which divided the province into four categories which dictated where and how coal leasing, exploration and development could occur.
However, the Grassy Mountain project was part of the old Category 4 where exploration and development was allowed under normal approval procedures.
Reid noted stewardship of the land is important and legislation has been put in place to protect it.
He pointed to the Water Act and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
“They are very stringent,” Reid said.
He added if the developer is not responsible, he has full confidence in the Alberta Energy Regulator, who is reviewing the application.
Submissions to the joint panel convened by the federal government’s Impact Assessment Agency of Canada closed on Jan. 15.
Concerns have been raised about the Grassy Mountain Coal Project by a variety of stakeholders including the negative impact of the proposed coal development on the environment.
Fears have been expressed about the destruction of the mountain and landscape and wildlife such as the Westslope Cut Throat Trout, and the threat of solenium contamination of the watershed which includes the headwaters of the Oldman River. There are also concerns that recreation use such as hiking, hunting and camping will be affected and, in some cases, be lost.
Reid also pointed out that coal leases are auctioned off and companies, who are purchasing them are speculating.
“A coal lease does not mean a coal mine,” he said. “A lease is not a project.”
That point was rendered moot when Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced on Jan. 18 that the most recent sale of 11 leases was cancelled and future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands have been suspended.
Currently, the Grassy Mountain project is the only one in play.
Reid said he has also met with stakeholders as well as Alberta Environment and Parks.
“I’ve had good meetings with them,” he said.
He also pointed to the economic impact that could mean up to 400 jobs for the area.
“At the same time they need to do it responsibly,” he said.
Reid added it is important to protect wildlife, species at risk, and the watershed.
“I’m confidant in the system that’s in place,” he said.
By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer