Australian enterprise revives its drive for a controversial coal mine in Alberta

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Environmental groups, community ranchers and these dwelling in the Oldman River watershed, downstream from the proposed Grassy Mountain mine, have numerous problems about the impact of coal mines in the japanese slopes of the Rocky Mountains.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

A enterprise whose software for a coal mine in Alberta was turned down two years ago is again – with a new title, and an up-to-date request to investigate its lease in the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Northback Holdings Corp., formerly Benga Mining Ltd., is a subsidiary of Australian mining large Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd. It is once more eyeing a potential mine at Grassy Mountain, distributing apps to the Alberta Electrical power Regulator (AER) for a 105-working day exploratory drilling method and a request for a drinking water diversion.

Northback explained to The Globe and Mail in an e-mail that people functions would obtain technical details and allow it to evaluate the merits of mining the metallurgical coal, which is utilized to make steel.

Grassy Mountain is on the site of an aged mine that closed about 5 many years ago. The new, open up-pit mine that Benga proposed for the land forecast production of 93 million tonnes of metallurgical coal above a 23-yr life.

A joint federal-provincial regulatory panel turned down Benga’s Grassy Mountain application in 2021, locating that the project would likely outcome in considerable adverse consequences on the surroundings and on some 1st Nations, which outweighed any financial positive aspects. The Alberta Court of Charm denied the company’s ask for to enchantment that regulatory selection.

Northback’s press to build Grassy Mountain comes at a time of renewed focus on coal mining in Canada, with Teck Methods Ltd. agreeing to sell its coal company to Swiss commodities investing giant Glencore PLC and two Asian steelmakers in an US$8.9-billion transaction.

Critics problem why the AER is entertaining the company’s apps, which it submitted in August, when Benga’s prepare for the exact same web-site was turned down two yrs in the past.

Environmental teams, regional ranchers and all those living in the Oldman River watershed, downstream from Grassy Mountain, have a long listing of fears about the impact of coal mines in the japanese slopes.

The key a person is water. Southwestern Alberta is in the grip of intense drought. H2o concentrations are at unparalleled lows with lack advisories issued across the area.

Laura Laing and her partner, John Smith, run Plateau Cattle, a third-era ranch outside Nanton, and graze their cattle on the japanese slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Some of the streams and tributaries that enable feed their procedure have dried up, and this year – for the initially time in its historical past – the ranch was not able to harvest even a one bale of hay.

“Coal is a thirsty business enterprise,” Ms. Laing mentioned in an interview. But with water drying up, in which would an allocation for Grassy Mountain even come from?

“To even think about accepting an application for water diversification for the objective of coal exploration in the Oldman River basin is just ludicrous,” she claimed.

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It’s not just the quantity of the water that problems her, but the impact a coal mine would have on the quality of it. Selenium can be toxic to fish populations, for case in point, and runoff of coal-mining waste frequently releases huge portions of the contaminant.

Northback’s apps have reopened what was a fiery debate in Alberta just two decades in the past.

In 2021, rigorous community backlash – including a courtroom problem and vocal rallying by Alberta place-tunes star Corb Lund – led far more than 100,000 people to indicator petitions demanding the governing administration provide again the 1976 Coal Policy land security rule, which it experienced scrapped the year prior. Whilst some communities and To start with Nations support mining for its financial gains, tearing up the coal plan had produced it easier for firms to go after open up-pit assignments on previously safeguarded fragile lands and watersheds flanked by the Rocky Mountains.

The federal government ended up halting exploration for coal on a swath of delicate land, cancelled a series of leases earmarked for potential new mines, and struck a committee to seek advice from with Albertans on new coal-mining rules.

An order by then-strength minister Sonya Savage in 2022 extended the ban on coal exploration, and directed the AER to suspend approvals and refuse new applications for exploration and enhancement on other selected land in the foothills – unless they were being relevant to an advanced coal job or an lively acceptance.

Northback details out that the Grassy Mountain task has state-of-the-art standing. The AER, having said that, explained in an e-mail that it has not nonetheless decided whether Grassy Mountain is an advanced coal venture. Only then will it carry out a complete technical review of the application. In accordance to the AER, advanced coal assignments contain those people wherever applicants have submitted a venture summary to the regulator to establish irrespective of whether an environmental impression evaluation is required.

If a mine goes ahead, Northback claimed, “it will be a environment chief in mining technology and environmental stewardship.”

When the former mine ceased operations in the 1970s, the proprietors made no energy to thoroughly clean up the web page, Northback included. The business mentioned reopening Grassy Mountain would allow it to “implement a earth-course reclamation system to redevelop the land for long term use by Albertans.”

Alberta Electrical power Minister Brian Jean stated in an interview that he will not attempt to affect the do the job of the AER.

“I’ve received to have an open brain, because it’s not my decision,” he explained.

And though he wouldn’t dedicate to introducing any additional guidelines to reduce the results of coal mining, he reported, “We simply cannot danger our natural environment and our consuming h2o.”

Ms. Laing states the simple fact the Grassy Mountain challenge is staying reconsidered has eroded Albertans’ patience and have faith in.

“We have a new governing administration in spot that has the opportunity to do the proper matter, but when yet again, we’re back again in this grey location,” she stated. “Coal advancement is not anything that is going to be accepted in the Rocky Mountains.”

Editor’s note: (Nov. 21, 2023): This story has been updated to replicate the actuality that, inspite of Northback’s declare that the Grassy Mountain challenge has highly developed status, the Alberta Strength Regulator says it has not still identified the project’s status.