By Letter to the Editor on February 20, 2021.
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.