Alberta BHA Opposes Grassy Mountain Coal Project, New Coal Policy

As passionate hunters and anglers in Alberta, the Alberta BHA board is concerned regarding the Benga Mining Limited’s proposed Grassy Mountain Coal Project in the Livingstone region of Southwestern Alberta and the rescission of A Coal Development Policy for Alberta (the Coal Policy).

We do not support the approval of the Grassy Mountain Coal Project, nor the rescission of the Coal Policy, which was done without appropriate stakeholder engagement. Given that the Coal Policy was developed in 1976 — through extensive public consultations with hunters and anglers, motorized users, hikers, and other concerned outdoor enthusiasts — with the intent of protecting the areas we recreate in from development, it is confusing as to why the policy was rescinded without the same amount of effort and diligence.

While the Grassy Mountain Coal Project is the most advanced project application, since the Government of Alberta rescinded the Coal Development Policy for Alberta at least five other potential projects are at some phase of exploration or application in the Livingstone region, including: Atrum’s Elan South and Isolation South projects, Cabin Ridge Coal’s Cabin Ridge Project and Montem’s Tent Mountain Mine and Chinook project. We have serious concerns about the proposed Grassy Mountain Project itself but are also concerned that as the first and most advanced application, if approved, would set a precedent for all subsequent coal developments in the region.  

Our key concerns about Grassy Mountain and other mine exploration activities are:

1)                  The loss of hunting, fishing, and camping opportunities

2)                  Risk of water contamination, particularly selenium, on threatened native fish populations

3)                  Impacts on wildlife habitat security and movement

The picturesque mountains, foothills and streams of Livingstone region are visited by thousands of Alberta hunters and anglers year-round. While this place has already seen changes from existing land use, there still exists the opportunity for backcountry adventures and high-quality hunting and angling experiences. This sense of place would be irreversibly changed by the addition of a coal mine, let alone six.

The conversion of this landscape to an industrial coalfield and the resulting potential impact to native fish would harm the reputation of the region as a fly-fishing destination and greatly impact the outdoor recreation industry that relies on the wild character of the region. Mine exploration and development would cause habitat loss and fragmentation for many game species. Like Alberta’s native fish, many of these wildlife species are sensitive to high densities of roads as well as disturbance from human activities – particularly such high impact activities as drilling and mines.

While many have pointed to the nearby Elk Valley in British Columbia as a model Alberta can follow for sustainable coal development, studies have shown that even with the best technologies, fish populations next to coal projects have effectively collapsed, and there is high risks that water pollution will contaminate rivers, like the world-class Crowsnest River, and the Oldman River, both of which provide water to countless downstream communities.

We and our fellow recreationists cannot afford to watch the Alberta Rockies be strip-mined, due to the short and long-term implications of such projects.  Leave the coal in the ground.

- The Alberta BHA Board

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