Please say no to Coal Mines in Alberta

Reference Number
1288
Date Submitted
2021-01-06 5:52:18 PM
Text

To:

The Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson- Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Cc:

The Honorable Bernadette Jordan- Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, MP Tom Kmiec, Premier Jason Kenney, Honorable Sonya Savage-Minister of Energy, Honorable Jason Nixon- Minister of Environment and Parksm, MLA Matt Jones, MLA Edmonton-Strathcona: Ms. Rachel Notley

Re: Please say no to Coal Mines in Alberta

I am respectfully requesting that your government say no to open-pit coal mining in the East Slopes of Alberta. My concern regarding coal exploration is for all the East Slopes, not just the Grassy Mines proposal. The government of Alberta's decision to rescind the 1976 Alberta Coal Policy was wrong. If the policy was to be cancelled or updated, it should have been done after land-use planning in Alberta was complete. If after that time, the policy was to be changed, it should have been done through public and stakeholder consultation. Open pit Coal mining will undoubtedly have a negative economic and environmental effect on Alberta's future for generations to come. It is additionally disheartening that this shift in policy was done without public consultation under the cover of COVID-19.

Open-pit coal mining in other jurisdictions have shown that these types of mining operations ultimately fail a cost-benefit analysis. I urge you to delay any approval and instead commission such an analysis which will almost certainly show that the long-term economic benefit to Alberta of the proposed coal mines will be minimal if not negative.

Open-pit coal mining poses serious threats to the health, safety, and security of Alberta's watersheds. In particular, the Oldman River and its tributaries run in the valley for the proposed Grassy Mines. The Oldman currently provides clean water to municipalities and agriculture, which will be threatened by selenium and other pollutants leaching from the mining operation and tailing ponds. Canadians downstream should not have to worry about what is in their glass of water. Nor should municipalities and agriculture have to modify water treatment, and curb those additional costs to treat polluted water. Ranchers are additionally concerned about the effect of these pollutants on their cattle. This mine will further threaten the survival of wild and native fish populations of Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Bull Trout, Rainbow Trout and Rocky Mountain Whitefish. Some of these species are already listed as Species at Risk with the DFO. Increased Selenium causes reproductive failure and body deformities in trout.

A short drive into BC through the Crowsnest Pass will have you in the Elk Valley, an area that is exhibiting real time negative effects of open pit coal mines. They are witnessing declines in fish populations, and uncontrolled increases in Selenium water pollution. The impacts of water contamination are affecting quality of life for residents, eco-tourism, real estate values and will cause a decline in angling eco-tourism in the Elk River Valley. The Elk Valley is an internationally acclaimed angling destination for Cutthroat and Bull Trout and is responsible for significant economic benefit for the region. You are additionally aware that the USA is in an ongoing litigation with the BC government over water pollution which is a direct result of the open-pit mining operations in the Elk Valley.

The proposed Grassy coal mine will destroy a large area of native fescue grassland, a natural resource that is critically important to traditional ranching and for wildlife populations. Once destroyed, this type of protein-rich grassland is almost impossible to restore.

The Oldman and Crowsnest regions threatened by this mine are popular places for recreational hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and even OHV groups. Outdoor recreation contributes significantly to the Alberta economy. In addition, these available recreation activities attract people to Alberta, the type of creative and productive people who will drive future economic growth in this province.

For every job that might be created by approving a coal mine, it will take away a job already established by hard working Albertans, who are already trying to recover from the long-term impacts of a recession and the many effects of COVID-19. Outside of the agricultural impacts, I think of eco-tourism based, locally owned and operated businesses like fly-fishing shops, fishing guides/outfitters, hunting guides/outfitters, back country supply stores, and the revenue from visitors who would have specifically travelled to Alberta and the foothills/mountain regions to experience our true wild places.

As a fishing guide, I know Alberta's East Slopes have world renown fisheries which attract people from all over the world. I know that when a client books me for a couple days of fishing, that my personal pay is one of the smallest pieces of impact in the economic contribution. The money spent in the province to do those activities is responsible for so much more. When you add up airline flights, car rentals/fuel costs, meals in restaurants, hotel accommodations, shopping/souvenir purchases, tourist attractions visited while on an angling trip, fishing licenses (which coast more as an out of province guest), guiding/outfitting expenses... in addition to what guides get paid daily, when you add up all the jobs the industry indirectly supports, the impact is much more significant. I can only expect that other recreation-based businesses have similar impacts on the economy. The cumulative loss to the province will be much greater when the resources that would have brought these people to Alberta in the first place disappears.

I am already aware of the long list of issues our trout fisheries have (habitat degradation, reduction of spawning grounds, sedimentation, Whirling Disease etc.). Some of those battles are new, and some have been going on for an exceedingly long time. That is an entirely separate discussion. Adding Coal mines in this province will in no way be of benefit to our trout populations or their sustainability for future generations.

I was blessed to be raised in a household where we embraced and respected Alberta's lands and wild places, with family farming roots in Alberta dating back to 1910. We would always leave an area better than you found it. We embraced and explored the foothills for the length of the Alberta's Forestry Trunk Road. Camping and fishing trips were always highly anticipated and made enough memories to last a lifetime. Those deep-rooted values and respect of the land are engrained in my soul, and I want my children and their future generations to be able to experience the wonder and amazement that is Alberta. Now is the time to invest in the preservation of our wild places, not invest in its exploitation. There is a difference between Resource Development and Developing a Resource. If COVID-19 has shown one thing of positivity in this province, it is that Alberta needs and loves its wild places. The amount of people who took to the outdoors and found solace fishing, hiking, camping and the multitude of other outdoor activities is inspiring. There were parked cars lined up for a kilometer to get to trail heads in places. Governments need to acknowledge constituents needs, regardless of who they voted for, and learn how to develop the resource for the future, not dismantle the mountain tops for a short-term financial gain.

Coal is on its way out; low emission hydrogen steel production is on the way in (which conveniently Alberta is also a producer of) and choosing to allow coal exploration is wrong and cannot be done without negative impacts to both the economy and environment. Approval of the Grassy mine would set a dangerous precedent for the remainder of the East Slopes, where 1.6+ million Albertans will feel its effects for generations to come.

I hope that these arguments will encourage your government to cancel coal mining in Alberta and not approve any such mine or additional exploration in our East Slopes.

Kindest regards,

John Roggensack

Submitted by
John Roggensack
Phase
N/A
Public Notice
N/A
Date modified: