August 4th, 2021

Coal mines won’t benefit Alberta


By Letter to the Editor on February 20, 2021.

Editor:
I am writing again, in deeper disappointment and horror than ever. It has become clear that the Government of Alberta has promised away huge swaths of land in the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains to foreign (primarily Australian) coal companies who propose to develop surface coal mining projects. This has been done without adequate, if any, public consultation, and the Alberta public is outraged. The government has repeatedly concealed information, obfuscated, and used jargon like “a balanced approach” to cover up what has been in the works behind closed doors for years. The recent “restoration” of the 1976 Coal Policy was a sleight of hand. Minister Savage has confirmed that six mining companies will continue exploration, and the Grassy and Tent Mountain open-pit mines are poised to go ahead.
These proposed coal developments will not benefit Albertans beyond a few unsustainable jobs, and will inflict profound and lasting damage on ecosystems, indigenous treaty rights, water safety and security, sustainable industries, agriculture, ranching, and human health.
This kind of mining requires substantial water to wash the coal product — water that is scarce and precious in this region.
The Government of Alberta has promised these mining companies to free up water allocations from the already over-subscribed Oldman River system, this, again, without public consultation.
Water used in this coal mining process becomes contaminated with selenium and other toxins and heavy metals that are very difficult and costly to remove from the water.
Waters treated and returned to the river will still contain these toxins. Selenium is known to be a bio-accumulator, and will accumulate in crops irrigated with this water, cattle, and human bodies, over time, with serious cumulative health effects.
Once an open pit mine is developed, the toxins will leach into the watershed for many decades to come.
Any assurances from mining companies like Benga Mining and Montem that they will adequately clean up the watershed are false and based on speculation.
The Crowsnest Pass is subject to frequent, intense westerly winds that will carry dust particles far downwind to settle onto snowpack and land and end up in the rivers.
In Lethbridge, where I live, we obtain all of our water for domestic use and local (garden) irrigation from the Oldman River. This entire arid region relies on the Oldman and Bow river systems and tributaries for our water.
The Government of Alberta has signalled that it will not respond in good faith to the concerns of Albertans and others downstream. Water is a human right.
Protect our precious water and the water of future generations from the short-term profit of foreign profiteers. Stop all surface mining (open pit, mountain-top removal, overburden removal mining).
Our lives are quite literally in the balance.
Annie Martin
Lethbridge

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Silverback

No benefit to Albertan’s, sorry to disagree, but the jobs being created are high paying, skilled jobs for Alberta, which is much needed and will help to diversify our economy. People forget how much economic benefit comes to southern Alberta because of the Elk Valley. As far as water contamination, yes there was a problem, but Tech has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fix that and reclamation of the land that is disrupted due to coal mining. Coal mining has come a long way since the 70’s. The technology developed by Tech will be required for these new mines and will protect the environment. We are a resource economy and that is not going to change for a long time, the benefits to our society far out way the disturbance to nature in these remote areas. The modern plants that clean the coal and dry it for use do not cause any environmental concerns. You are fear mongering, look at the history of coal mining and compare the past to the present and you will see they are great partners with society.

Fescue

Nice how the lobbyists role in to shore up the situation for their Masters.

phlushie

Nice pseudonym, must be well paid for your views.

biff

what an ignorant reply to well stated letter. how many cheeks does one turn to the likes of rogue mining and its sordid history in this country, let alone throughout the planet. do we need to mine? yes. do we need to keep on allowing mining to decimate areas, leaving behind ongoing legacies of toxic messes, ghost towns and poverty? NO. stewardship of the land is primary, and mining needs to be regulated far, far more effectively than it has heretofore. the silverback entry makes me wonder how many lemon cars they would buy from the same sleazy corrupted lot salesperson. teck mining “will protect the environment”…hahaha! where, and when? what a fool!

Dennis Bremner

Actually miners, including coal miners have not been “great partners with society” and never have. Open pit is somewhat more safe for the miners, but its never been proven to be good for the environment. In fact when a mine applies for a permit to mine, they agree with Politicians as to what is a “tolerable amount of pollution” and what is not. Once they exceed those levels the fines very rarely exceed the profit taken for the period they over polluted. All because the Politicians are afraid they will lose the “High paying Highly skilled jobs, you speak of. You have tailings leakage, you have aquifer contamination you have run off in periods of excessive rains. You have coal cars that fall off of rail tracks, the list goes on and on.
So saying that miners in general are a great partner with society is a stretch. If they were such great partners and had a social conscience then regulations would not have to be so stringent and checks made continually that they do not attempt to exceed pollution levels for profit. You suggest Teck Resources has learned over the years? Its the unions job to highlight unsafe work conditions and its the companies position always to minimize the level of risk. When “margins are squeezed” the minimization of risk by companies in general escalates proportionally. When revenue streams drop precipitously in a Province like Alberta the propensity is to compromise those “minimum acceptable levels of pollution” to achieve tax revenue. So you have a Government scrambling to find revenue who will “compromise on Albertans behalf” and a company more then prepared to take advantage of the Governments weakness. Not exactly a good combo, at this point!
The Ultimate test is to say to Coal Companies, we will issue a permit for a mine. You in turn are allowed zero pollution in adjacent waterways and aquifers. Do you know how many Coal Companies would exercise their permit? ZERO!
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/explosions-and-accidents-have-workers-at-b-c-mine-demanding-action-1.4499163

  • January 30, 2000: Baia Mare cyanide spill took place in Baia MareRomania. The accident, called the worst environmental disaster in Europe since Chernobyl, was a release of 100,000 tons of cyanide-contaminated water by an Aurul mining company when a reservoir broke, releasing its waters into the rivers SomeşTisza and Danube. Although no human fatalities were reported, the leak killed up to 80% of aquatic life of some of the affected rivers.
  • February 19, 2006Pasta de Conchos accident. 65 miners lost their lives in the mining accident near Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico. Only 2 bodies have been recovered.
  • April 5, 2010: Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, West Virginia. An explosion occurred in Massey Energy‘s Upper Big Branch coal. 29 of 31 miners at the site were killed.[25]
  • August 5, 2010: 2010 Copiapó mining accident, Atacama Desert, Chile. The 121-year-old San José copper–gold mine structurally collapsed at 14:05 CLT. The heart of the mountain, which had the mass of two Empire State Buildings, collapsed and caused catastrophic damage to the mine. It blocked all possible escape routes for the 33 miners trapped at 2300 feet. After 69 days, all 33 miners were rescued.
  • November 19, 2010: Pike River Mine disaster in New Zealand. At 3:45pm, the coal mine exploded. 29 men underground died immediately, or shortly afterwards, from the blast or from the toxic atmosphere. Two men in the stone drift, some distance from the mine workings, managed to escape. (Extract from Royal Commission of Enquiry Report on Pike River.)
  • May 13, 2014: Soma mine disaster took place in SomaTurkey. The accident was reportedly the worst mining accident ever in Turkey, and is the worst mining accident so far in the 21st century so far. 301 people died.
  • January 6, 2019: 2019 Kohistan mine collapseAfghanistan. The accident killed at least 30 gold miners.[26]
  • July 2, 2020: At least 174 people were killed in a landslide in the 2020 Hpakant jade mine disaster in the Hpakant area in Myanmar.[27]
Last edited 5 months ago by Dennis Bremner
biff

great entry. let me add the mount polley, bc disaster, where imperial metals has the distonction of authoring canada’s largest environmental mine disaster. “The Aug. 4, 2014, collapse sent 24 million cubic metres of mine waste into Quesnel Lake, Hazeltine Creek and other area waterways.
An independent report into the disaster said the dam was built on a sloped glacial lake, weakening its foundation. It said the inadequate design of the dam didn’t account for drainage or erosion failures associated with glacial till beneath the pond. One independent geotechnical engineer described the location and design of the tailings pond as loading a gun and pulling the trigger.” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mount-polley-mine-disaster-5-years-later-emotions-accountability-unresolved-1.5236160
pathetic bc govts have not filed any charges against imperial metals…how cozy.
but gee whiz, that was then, way back about 7 years ago. mining cos now have a conscience. right silverback?

Southern Albertan

Agreed A.M. One only needs to type “the Teck coal mine disaster in B.C.” on Google to get some idea of the real situation there. Talk can be high, and low, trying expound the positives of open-pit coal mining, but folks can only be fooled for so long. No matter what is said, most Albertans, do, not, want, open-pit coal mining here. What we want is for the Kenney UCP government to cancel and compensate all of the leases they handed out before the 1976 Policy was rescinded. Damaging exploration work on these leases still goes on. We want it stopped, now….nothing less.
And, since money talks, Alberta, as a ‘whole,’ would get peanuts in actual revenue from open-pit coal mining. Watch what the $billionaires are doing, they’re not stupid. Two main areas where they are investing are renewable energies and biotechnology. Even the oil and gas sector big companies are investing elsewhere, for example, TC Energy, the KXL guys, are investing in renewable energies and now own almost 50% of Bruce Power….again, they’re not stupid. Even steel production will be done with cleaner energies. We cannot keep pursuing these dinosaur fossil fuel technologies at our peril.

Last edited 5 months ago by Southern Albertan
GHG

“In Lethbridge, where I live, we obtain all of our water for domestic use and local (garden) irrigation from the Oldman River. This entire arid region relies on the Oldman and Bow river systems and tributaries for our water.” ….You mean the water from all the flushed toilets from Coleman through to Monarch, the run-off from the feedlots and grazing along the way? That clean source of water?

phlushie

Yes, lets add selenium and a few other heavy metals to the mix in our ORGANIC water.