April 22nd, 2024

The zombie-like nature of the proposed Grassy Mountain coal mine

By Lethbridge Herald on March 5, 2024.


In the recent pronouncement from the minister of Energy that the proposed Grassy Mountain coal mine is still an “advanced project” one might conclude he believes in the living dead. Nothing it seems is ever dead, it just waits in a moribund condition for the kiss of life from a government out of touch with Albertans’ feelings about blowing the tops off mountains in the Eastern Slopes. Apparently this minister required a bit of remedial tutoring to be assured that Grassy Mountain is in the Eastern Slopes.

He may not have read the report from brave scientists in another government department who concluded the old mine and the one on Tent Mountain continue to spew toxic materials at levels that far exceed provincial and federal standards. I suppose that is, in his estimation, a reflection a mine couldn’t really be dead, if it continues to actively and negatively affect downstream water and water drinkers.

On the minister’s reading list should have been the results of the joint federal/provincial panel. The panel heard from dozens of experts who debunked all the Australian company’s claims of minimal impacts, successful mitigation plans (including dealing with selenium and other toxic chemicals), bountiful economic benefits and so on, ad nauseum. That information, the facts and evidence then allowed the panel to conclude this project was not in the public interest. None of the evidence has been successfully contested by the company. 

The minister must have also overlooked or slept through the massive outpouring of concern from Albertans over the prospect of turning the Eastern Slopes into a series of black holes at the expense of watershed protection, biodiversity maintenance, recreational and tourism attributes and the very real specter taxpayers would be stuck with the reclamation costs (as is so very evident now with the petroleum sector).

Based on the extreme backlash, the Alberta government convened a “Coal Policy Committee” to advise it on coal issues. The extensive public engagement process found Albertans’ “top of mind” concern was the environmental impacts of coal mines. Two things stand out from the results of the consultation:

“Albertans have concerns about the regulatory process for coal activities.    Albertans are concerned that coal policies can be easily overridden when many thought  that these policies were legally binding.”

With this latest revelation about an about face on the status of Grassy Mountain those concerns still register large. The minister might consider this report required reading.

This situation resembles so closely an anecdote about W. C. Fields, an American comedian. He was an avowed atheist, yet was observed by a friend reading the bible on his deathbed. Asked why, Fields reply was “Looking for loopholes, looking for loopholes.” It would seem there have been an astounding number of loopholes sought yet all that have been through a judicial review have failed. Experts in law and policy point out the project is “legally dead.”

What else could explain the minister’s reluctance to drive a stake through the heart of this coal proposal and put it and Albertans out of our misery?

Lorne Fitch is a Professional Biologist, a retired Fish and Wildlife Biologist and a past Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary.

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Southern Albertan

Hear, hear! What else could explain this? Perhaps, bloody-mindedness.
Perhaps, describes the whole of the Smith/Parker UCP/TBA.
What will it take for the masses to rise up and say, “Enough!” ?


Technology changes.


Indeed it does Buckwheat. But I doubt that Muskrat’s brain chip will help you in any great way.


Agreed Lorne… while Buckwheat below notes that technology changes, TECK and other previous owners of the mines across the border in B.C. have spent billions of dollars on various forms of technology to abate the poisoning of the watershed from their mines. They have made some progress in recent years, but the poisoning will persist for hundreds of years to come. Too little too late, and still not sufficient to correct the multitude of problems.
Meanwhile lawsuits directed towards the TECK corporation and two other defendants are in progress regarding the selenium poisoning entering Montana.
Despite the intensive research over decades and public uproar reported year after year, our UCP minister is inexcusably ill-informed regarding the Grassy Mountain coal mine and the environmental concerns plaguing such coal mines. I sincerely doubt that he is capable of understanding any report not delivered to him in the form of a comic book. These UCP caucus members are simply fools with no tools.


i get my yearly dose of selenium via the odd swim in koocanusa. no pill to swallow, no special diet, just a few minutes in massive reservoir loaded with awesome selenium. the fish and the water birds are most robust as a consequence, too. once we factor in the oil and diesel waste, that have increased incredible-fold since that awesome marina was built, well, one does not even need sun lotions anymore to get that rich, dark, illustrious hue that used to require many invested hours of sun exposure. heck, if we do not work hard to stamp our stinky footprint on things here, then who will?

old school

Old mines continue to spew toxic chemicals. Sounds bad. I would be interested to see it though. Is it equal to the recent volcano in Iceland?Earth changing? Or is it a microscopic seepage impossible to see? Reality is there is a deficiency in selenium in southern alberta. All of the elements including selenium are already in the ground and in the mountains. Mining coal results in redistribution of elements like selenium. I’m not convinced it’s all bad. As for biffs depiction of Kookanusa ,it looks like a fairly healthy lake loaded with and supporting variety of wildlife.


“I would be interested to see it though.” — If you have not seen it by now ‘old school’, especially given we live in a world of information access, then leading you to the water does not mean that we will be able to force you to drink it.
Your comments suggest a poor understanding of chemistry and biology. You might start there… become better educated in such things, better informed, then we can can discuss this when when we are in the same book, let alone on the same page.

Odd that you state, “I would be interested to see it though” with regard to seeing the mine toxins, yet you are apparently 20:20 with regard to seeing the health of the Koocanusa aquatic ecosystem with a mere glance at the surface. You could become a high paid consultant to the UCP with such amazing skills. Don’t forget to sign your name to the report.


not sure why one goes so far afoot in order to try and justify bad because there is other bad that happens. the real point is we need to be responsible for what we are passing along to future generations; we need to be respectful of the life forms and systems that all living beings depend upon to be health and diverse.
curious: why do you – and, sadly, you are not alone – have such unfailing support and/or preference for the very greediest, self serving, planet ruining entities?

Last edited 1 month ago by biff
John P Nightingale

Another insightful and thoughtful contribution from Old Fool. As with his previous monologue demonizing the CBC for suggesting the virulent, autocratic nature of Putin , this suggestion of redistributing selenium is not all bad, belongs in the scrapyard of history. I suppose the CBC is also part of this traitorous environmental action group which dares to suggest that selenium waste is OK – must be so because a “variety of wildlife” is found in neighbouring lakes.
Brilliant, just brilliant!


Someone just raised this point… ‘will the 35 km buffer zones around “pristine viewscapes” required for windmills in the Rockies’… be applied to the coal mine ?
If not… why is a different standard applied to the renewable resource projects than to the non-renewable resource monumentally scarring extraction process ? Is someone’s ideologically passive-aggressive bias leaking through once again their consistency of thought ?

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