April 23rd, 2024

Coal mining – when ‘no’ means ‘no’

By Letter to the Editor on April 1, 2021.

When does “No” mean “No”? For most Albertans, it appears to be when a rookie government decides to open our Eastern Slopes for coal mining.
The Kenney government’s secretive agreement with Australian coal companies to revoke Alberta’s coal policy took Albertans by surprise. Then it was the government’s turn to be taken aback when Albertans of all stripes joined forces against coal exploration and new coal mines.
An apparently contrite Minister of Energy finally promised public consultation over the issue, but she didn’t cancel massive new coal leases and destructive exploration programs. Although she said mountain-top strip mining would never be allowed in Alberta, government officials later clarified that only meant entire mountain tops wouldn’t be removed – slim comfort to Albertans concerned about land devastation and water pollution.
Secrecy continues to shroud that promise of “public consultation.” Will it be open and fair, or a contrived public relations exercise? How committed is the UCP government to seriously consider a “no mining” option? Distrust is rampant.
The Kenney government’s unfortunate history of failing to respect Albertans’ love of the Eastern Slopes dates back to an earlier decision, also done without consultation, to close parks and recreation areas. These are not trivial debates. The UCP seems to be promoting a fundamental shift away from protecting the scenery and ecological well-being of the Eastern Slopes, downstream water drinkers and a long-standing social contract by previous governments to care for our crowning jewels.
Consultation needs to take into account the cumulative effect of all the ways in which other interest groups already exploit the Eastern Slopes. Our mountains and foothills are reaching, and have passed several ecological thresholds. It’s time to step back, and restore some of the disturbance footprint, not add the lasting damage of coal strip mining to the mix.
Albertans treasure the Eastern Slopes. They are the source of almost all the water that our economy depends on. Those mountains and foothills offer natural diversity, beauty and recreational opportunity where many Alberta families seek refuge from cities, work and other stresses. Biologically unique, rare, magnificent and threatened species still survive there, although some, like native trout, hang on by a fin. The Eastern Slopes are an Alberta treasure.
All of that will change with coal mining. The evidence is unequivocal – one need only look over the border into the Elk Valley of BC, or closer to home, into Alberta’s Coal Branch, to see the grimness of a future where those values are displaced by coal mining.
Coal lobbyists and their government enablers portray mining as a highly regulated industry. But the legacy of existing mines puts the lie to those earnest assurances about strict regulations, proven mitigation technologies and successful reclamation. Hype about jobs, royalties and taxes has little foundation; coal mining communities already have some of the most precarious boom-and-bust economies in the province.
Once our mountains and foothills are carved apart, the water fouled and depleted, gates installed to prevent Albertans from accessing our public lands, the trout gone and the campgrounds and communities coated with coal dust, it will be too late. There will be no second chance to protect our Eastern Slopes.
That’s why it’s now critical for Albertans to pay attention when Kenney’s government finally launches its coal consultation. We need to watch for trick questions designed to open a wedge for coal strip mining – questions like where mining could occur, how much disturbance is okay, or whether we support best-available mitigation technologies promised to solve the pollution problems.
If we offer a qualified “yes,” coal boosters in government will hear the “yes” and take it from there.
If we cherish the Eastern Slopes, Albertans need to take this seriously. The best answer to any question about stripping our Eastern Slopes for coal is a simple, blunt, unqualified “No.” Because No means No.
Lorne Fitch is a Professional Biologist, a retired provincial Fish and Wildlife Biologist and a former Adjunct professor with the University of Calgary.
Kevin Van Tighem is an Alberta landscape ecologist and author of several books on nature and conservation, including the newly-released Wild Roses Are Worth It.

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The usual anti everything in my back yard crowd shows up. Try to write a 690 word letter to the editor in rebuttal to this and you will get canned at 400 words. The Herald, the environment, the left, the Heralds bread and butter. Letters to the Editor capped at 400 words for everyone else. Everything NDP, good, anything mentioned by a Conservative, bad. And we will give you all the ink you need to show it.


there are no conservatives left in Alberta, they have regrouped as REFORMERS>

Last edited 3 years ago by phlushie

It’s not the size of your word count that matters, Buckwheat.


Australia is moving away from coal and into Renewable Energy as a viable replacement to coal. That’s what we should be doing and would IF we had a progressive visionary at the helm.

Last edited 3 years ago by Blue
Southern Albertan

The majority of Albertans, clearly, do not, want, any, coal mining in Alberta, at all. Now wonder, while the wheels on the Kenney UCP bumblebus keep falling off a daily bumbling basis, the AB NDP is experiencing a significant increase in voting intentions. Premier Kenney was in Lethbridge yesterday re: the exhibition park development with its ag sector theme. Interesting, how spokespeople for the ag sector in southern Alberta have actually voiced concern re: open-pit coal mining’s, would be, negative impact on food, animal and crop production. These folks tend to vote right wing. The Kenney UCP appear to be not hearing Albertans and turning a blind eye to the, would be, negative effects of open-pit coal mining. They have actually accused us of misinterpreting the facts on open-pit coal mining. No wonder it has been said the Jason Kenney does not ‘understand’ Alberta, and exactly why many Alberta folks would be rejigging their traditional political belief systems.
It boils down to the Kenney UCP placing more emphasis on peanuts being made from coal than on our, again, $multibillion ag sector. It beggars belief.


When I was a young lad my Russian speaking Grand father had a phrase wen he talked about certain people ( back in the late 40’s). His comment was “Woon Ontarits” which meant he was fro Ontario. But was interpreted He was totally inept short of being a total idiot.


Actually it is 350 words now. And not all at the Herald are brainwashed, but the few are usually cancelled, even Brian. Not sure why vanTighem and Fitch always have them scratchy tumbleweek burrs up their butt but they do go on. Mighty condescending too. Wish they cared 1% as much about us people as they do for their ideas of “pristine nature”. Cuz Mother Nature can be a.