Opposed to Mountain Coal Mining

Photo courtesy of Way Out West Fest

Photo courtesy of Grant Levy

Open-pit Coal Mining in Southwest Alberta Defies Logic

This proposed open-pit mining operation by an Australian company will ship polluting coal to other countries across the Pacific and around the world. Yet the economic benefit to Alberta will be minimal.

The devastation of the proposed coal mining projects will be wide-reaching, especially for our irreplaceable water sources. Open pit coal mining is known to leach toxic levels of selenium and other elements into the water thus threatening the quality and safety of drinking water downstream.

The mining operation itself will use a significant proportion of the water in the Oldman River basin, water that is needed downstream for agriculture, towns and cities.

The other impacts of mountaintop removal are just as troubling. From the region's extreme wind conditions carrying airborne contaminants long distances, to loss of irreplaceable fescue grassland, to the destruction of wildlife habitat including that of several species at risk, to loss of recreation opportunities, this open pit coal mining will negatively effect everyone who uses these lands and the water flowing from it.

You Can Help


There are important ways in which you can help. We need to fund a legal battle and influence the Alberta Government through citizen letters.


   

Threatens Water Quality

The Oldman River which rises in the threatened valley provides high quality water for over 200,000 Albertans as well as many agricultural operations. This watershed supplies some 40 percent of the water used for irrigation in Southern Alberta, and the water is already over-allocated.

If approved, these mines of which the Grassy Mountain mine is just the first, could replace the watershed wilderness with up 40 kilometers of industrial destruction. Open-pit coal mining essentially removes the top off of mountains to access the coal seams underneath. It will be at a scale unprecedented in Alberta. The mining operation will contaminate both groundwater and the river with Selenium, commonly found in these rock and coal formations, plus other impurities and heavy metals. This type of operation results in huge hills of toxic tailings which, based on experience elsewhere including a few kilometers west in BC, will gradually leach the pollutants into streams and groundwater for hundreds of years - long after the mining company has departed. And there is no good method of removing it from the water.

Albertans shouldn't have to worry about the water in their glass. Neither should people downstream in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The water pollution will further endanger the Westslope Cutthroat trout species which is at risk. Their population has already declined by some 90%.

The mining operation itself will use a great deal of water, water that is needed downstream. This use makes no sense because the water in this basin is already over-allocated for urban and agricultural use.

Read more about the importance of water and the foothills' watershed.

 

Fails Long-term Economic Analysis

From an economic standpoint these types of mining operations ultimately fail a cost-benefit analysis. History shows that the long-term economic benefit to Alberta of the proposed coal mines will be minimal, and perhaps even negative. The proposed projects will provide some short-term jobs, but with low royalties, low taxes, and the public having to provide infrastructure, The benefit to Alberta government coffers will be small. The real economic winners will be the coal companies.

There is a chance that the cost of restoration of the landscape will fall on the taxpayer. We are already paying for the cleanup and decommissioning of oil wells around the province which were left behind by companies that have disappeared. When the coal mining tailing ponds are left behind to leach selenium and other pollutants into water for tens, and even hundreds, of years, who will bear the cost in both money and environmental health?

Assets that are productive and support productive economic activities are essential to the wealth and well being of society. Real capitalism protects our regenerative resources in oceans, grasslands, farm soils, and forests. It understands the importance and economic value of watersheds. The southwest Alberta foothills grasslands produce both water and beef as a synergy. It is already a highly productive landscape.

 

Reduces Recreation Opportunities and Value

Thousands of Albertans use this valley for recreation. The mountain PARKS and VALLEYS provide opportunity for Albertans to hike, fish and hunt. The Forestry Trunk Road (Hwy 40) in the valley has provided access for people to experience the fresh air and mountain environment for generations but this area will now become unsuitable for these healthy activities.

Open-pit coal mining produces a great deal of dust which can be a health risk. The dust from the proposed mine would not only make outdoor recreation less healthy in the valley, but can be carried by the prevailing winds into other adjacent recreational areas in the foothills, plus towns downwind of the pits.

A big part of the Alberta advantage is mountain recreation. It helps to attract productive and creative people who migrate to Alberta for its healthy lifestyle and great recreational opoportunities. It encourages these people to stay, work and set up businesses. It is people who will fuel Alberta's future.

Tourism and recreational activities contribute significantly to the Alberta economy. Tourism provides a large and clean cash input into Alberta. A coal mine of this type will potentially give Alberta a poor environmental reputation and discourage tourism.

 

Limits Valuable Food Production

The world needs food and Alberta has the land and water to grow a lot of it. in 2018, Alberta agri-food exports were $11.6 billion. Value-added exports such as oilseed cake and meal, crude canola oil, milled and prepared cereals, dairy products, beef and processed potatoes contributed some $6.1 billion. Wheat and beef were the top two exports.

With an increasing world population and the rise of the middle class in countries such as India and China especially, there is an increasing demand for high-quality GRAINS and PROTEIN. These are lucrative markets. With our land, climate and clean water, Alberta is well positioned into the future to grow and profit from our agriculture bounty.

Agriculture is a sustainable business. It requires water, sunlight and smart farmers and ranchers. We have all three. The proposed coal mining is, nevertheless, a threat to the water supply. We are risking a long-term wealth provider for short-term considerations.

During the settlement of Alberta the foothills were too high, too cold and too steep for growing grain. But they were ideal for raising cattle. The native grasses originally supported buffalo herds and now provide feed for cattle. It is productive land.

Some ranchers have grazing allotments in the Mount Livingstone Range and rely on that grazing area during summers. Strip-mining the valley will not only jeopardize the current grazing allotments, but permenently reduce or eliminate its ability to support cattle and wildlife into the foreseeable future. The native rough fescue grasses that anchor the foothills grazing ecosystem are an excellent souce of protein for animals to eat, especially in the fall and winter, but they are slow growing and difficult to establish. Once the native fescue grasses are gone there is no good economic method of recreating that type of excellent grazing.

The iconic images of Alberta that makes us proud and attracts people to the province are the wide-open spaces with the foothills and mountains as a backdrop, fields of grain and grazing cattle. It is a clean and healthy environment with clear air, not clouds of coal dust.

 

Take Action

You can make a difference. Let the Alberta government know that you are in favour of long-term prosperity and that the mountain parks and foothills currently provide both health and wealth. Don't sacrifice them for short-term goals.

This is a difficult decision for the Alberta Goverment during a time of large deficits and a total provincial gross debt approaching $100,000,000,000. There are huge demands on the treasury, especially for health care and education. Nevertheless, you as a citizen need to remind them that a long-term view is critical, especially for our children and grandchildren.

Write your member of the Alberta Legislature (MLA)
Click the button to see an example letter and ministerial addresses. It is also worthwhile to email your MLA with your opinion although a letter, especially handwritten, has more effect. Whatever the method, including a phone call, politicians respond to quantity of contacts. Be a superhero by contacting the Premier and your MLA today.

Help by donating. We accept donations through Paypal or a Go Fund Me account to help stop this very polluting open-pit coal mine in the foothills. Your donation is appreciated and will assist in paying for the lawsuit and other expenses related to raising awareness and taking action against the risks and permanent damage that would be caused by the proposed coal mine. You may also donate directly to the Pekisko Group by sending a cheque to P.O. Box 100, Longview, AB, T0L 1H0. Please note that we are happy to provide receipts upon request for donations, but we are unable to provide charitable tax receipts.





Informative Videos, Links and Downloads

Opened in a separate tab

Water not Coal   Ranchers and other stakeholders in the Southwest Alberta foothills understand the importance of fresh water to people, livestock, wildlife and the economy, and explain why the proposal to allow open-pit coal mining in the foothills' watershed is extremely poor policy.

Short Term Thinking Insufficient   Laura Laing and John Smith of the Plateau Cattle Co. talk about why any decision to allow open-pit coal mining in the foothills is bad government policy.

David Luff on the New Government Coal Mine Policy and Water   David Luff, former Assistant Deputy Minister in the Alberta government, talks about the original purpose of the recently cancelled coal policy which dated from the Lougheed days, and which protected our watersheds from inappropriate coal development.

Swim for Coal Mine Awareness.   A CBC story about Nichole Robinson who swam the Oldman Reservoir on August 22, 2020, to alert the public on the danger of water pollution by the proposed open-pit coal mine.

Ranchers Fear for Grazing Areas   A Canadian Cattlemen story on how local ranchers fear the loss of grazing lands due to the proposed coal mine project.

The Price of Progress.   A Story by Monica Field of the Livingstone Landowner Group who questions, "How can Albertans have such a deep appreciation for the land and its vital watersheds while constantly allowing the sacrifice and degradation of these priceless resources ... for a select few corporations' short-term economic benefit?

Economics of the Cattle Sector in Canada   [pdf] The economic impact of the cattle sector on the Canadian economy.

Alberta Leads Country in Cattle Production   A StatsCan report on how the cattle industry is key to beef production in Canada.

Alberta Rescinds Coal Mine Policy.   A CBC story on the Alberta government rescinding as of September 1, 2020, the decades-old policy that banned open-pit coal mining in the Rockies and Foothills.

Albertans for a Coal Free Southwest.   Stories and information on the proposed coal mine and potential environmental effects on a local action group website.

CPAWS NoWhere Else Magazine on Coal Mining.   Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society presents information and stories on the recent changes to decades-old Alberta coal mining policy and the environmental, economic and social risks of the proposed new mines.

Water Contamination from Elk River Mine   How downstream water contamination from the Teck Mines project in BC is polluting water, negatively affecting the endangered westslope cutthroat trout, and affecting US-Canada relations.

Selenium Pollution   Health Canada guideline for allowable levels of selenium in drinking water.

Sparwood Drinking Water Problem   [pdf] A town alert on how the drinking water in Sparwood, BC, is directly affected by selenium.

Pollution Knows No Borders   Toxic pollution from Canadian mines affects US water.

Selenium damaging fish   The US EPA finds that contamination from BC mines is affecting fish in Montana.

Selenium Pollution Common   Globe and Mail article on the effects of selenium pollution from coal mining in North Carolina, BC and AB

Coal Mining in Alberta   Contemporary challenges of coal mining in Alberta.

Bringing Coal Back   A CBC article on the revival of coal mining in Canada.

Environmental Risks of Coal Mining   A Lethbridge Herald article on the environmental risks of coal mining in southern Alberta, especially to water.

Report on Grazing Leases   An Alberta Institute report on value and compensation of ranching grazing leases in Alberta.




The Pekisko Group



Threatens Water Quality


Open-pit coal mining is proposed in the valley that is the source of the OldMan River. This has the potential to DEGRADE the water quality for over 200,000 Alberta residents who get their water from the Oldman and South Saskatchewan Rivers. This includes Selenium and other pollutants. It should be a concern to AGRICULTURAL users as well as residents of FORT MACLEOD, LETHBRIDGE, MEDICINE HAT and other communities.

Fails Long-term Economic Analysis


History shows that the long-term economic benefit to Alberta of the proposed coal mines will be minimal, and perhaps even negative. The proposed projects will provide some short term jobs but with low royalties, low taxes, and the public having to provide infrastructure, The benefit to Alberta government coffers will be small. And there is a chance that the cost of full restoration of the landscape will fall on the taxpayer. The real economic winners will be the coal companies.

Limits Mountain Recreation


Thousands of Albertans use this valley for recreation. The mountain PARKS and VALLEYS provide opportunity for Albertans to hike, fish and hunt thus helping to ATTRACT productive and creative people to fuel Alberta's future. The Forestry Trunk Road (Hwy 40) in the valley has provided access for people to experience the fresh air and mountain environment for generations but this area will now become unsuitable for these healthy activities. Part of the Alberta advantage is mountain recreation.

Negatively Effects Valuable Food Production


The world needs food and Alberta has the land and water to grow a lot of it. There is an increasing demand for high-quality GRAINS and PROTEIN around the world - think cereal crops and beef. Agriculture is a huge, increasing and PROFITABLE export for Alberta and that will require as much clean water as possible. The foothills are a key watershed source for that water. We need to maximize our natural advantage as an agricultural producer, not hamstring it by degrading our water supply.