June 23rd, 2024

Coal policy must consider all effects of mining

By Letter to the Editor on April 9, 2021.

The proposed Grassy Mountain and Tent coal mine areas are the headwaters of the Oldman River which supplies much needed water to the semi-arid southwestern Alberta and Saskatchewan regions. Cities, farms and animals depend on this water.
Open pit mining exposes toxic elements and dust. Residual rock slurries are produced as tailings. Toxic elements from these can leak into the headwaters. and other proposed mines threaten our headwaters and rivers.
Consequently, it is of great concern to learn from an article published in the Lethbridge Herald, that Minister Savage declares that water is under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Parks, that the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) makes decisions regarding coal projects, and that water is not going to be part of the coal policy review.
This does not make any sense.
Does this mean that all of these current coal leases that are now allowing removal of trees, building of roads and drilling had not received environmental assessment by Albert Environment and Parks prior to being issued by the AER? Even before the mining begins, these undertakings are causing harm.
Further, open pit coal mines along the eastern slopes will affect many aspects of our lives.
Health: All of Southern Alberta depends on this water for human consumption. I am having trouble understanding why one would want to jeopardise this?
Agriculture: Alberta is a main exporter of agricultural products which rely on fresh clean water for irrigation and livestock. High levels of toxic selenium and otherwise contaminated water would threaten this prime industry.
Environment, Wildlife and Endangered Species: The area in question is rich with precious wildlife which will be exceedingly affected by the mining activities and destruction of habitat. These headwaters are important for endangered fish species and are frequented by species at risk such as grizzly bears. The area is an important wildlife corridor between Waterton, Kananaskis and Banff Parks.
Tourism: Alberta depends heavily on tourism. This area attracts fishers, hunters and campers from all over the world. It is also used intensively by the residents of Alberta for leisure activities.
Jobs: Industry has promised 400 jobs. How can that be guaranteed? Open pit mines are becoming highly mechanized. How long will these 400 jobs last?
Sustainability: What the guarantees that there will be demand for this coal far into the future? The main importer of this coal will be China. However, China is fast moving towards self sustainability. the end of 2019, China’s second-largest steelmaker announced it’s plan to construct a hydrogen-based steelmaking facility which will produce 1.2 million tonnes/year.
What will happen when the demand for coal suddenly dries up? The mining company will declare bankruptcy and the Alberta taxpayers will end up with the high cost of cleanup, reclamation, health costs and losses in agriculture and tourism for many years to come.
Albertans love their mountains, their beauty, wildlife and nature. These are the very attributes that Alberta is known for worldwide.
The coal policy review must take into consideration effects on all aspects that the mines would potentially affect including water, health, agriculture, tourism and wildlife, not just jobs!
Mark Goettel

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another smart letter – ty.
what better name for a minister in charge of rape, pillage and plunder of our natural and needed lands: savage.