Central Alberta tour
Following our tour of southern Alberta communities, the Coal Policy Committee wanted to visit other parts of the province to ensure we hear from as many Albertans as possible. With this in mind, we recently completed a tour in central Alberta, during which we met with various municipal and community representatives.
This included meetings in Rocky Mountain House, Edson, Hinton and the Nordegg area with:
- Reeve Cammie Baird and Council colleagues from Clearwater County
- Mayor Tammy Burke and Council colleagues from Town of Rocky Mountain House
- Deputy Mayor Wade Williams and Council colleagues from Yellowhead County
- representatives of United Mine Workers of America Local 1656 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 955
- Hinton Mayor Marcel Michaels and a Council colleague
- representatives from the Hinton & District Chamber of Commerce
- representatives from the Athabasca Watershed Bioregional Society
- Misty Valley community member Jerzy Maslanka
- representatives from the West Country Sustainability Coalition
The topics discussed with these groups were wide-ranging. Concerns were raised about the environmental outcomes of coal mining, including GHG emissions and water pollutants, and the need for more accountability of sustainable practices. We also heard concerns about the effect of coal mining on tourism and recreation. Communities expressed concerns about the transportation of coal through communities, while previous mining communities also shared their experiences with dust and traffic. Conversely, we also heard from those worried over the adverse effects on towns and regions when mines are closed prematurely.
Other comments included addressed the developments in technology – such as carbon capture – that can improve the environmental outcomes of coal mining, though appropriate regulation and enforcement. We heard about the increase in wildlife on reclaimed properties. However, we also heard that reclaimed footprints may act as “wildlife population sinks” – which could lead to the habitat being abandoned. It was recommended that the cumulative effects on ecosystems, inclusive of all industries, needs to be taken into account.
The committee also heard about the competing interests between the shift in global energy demand for lower-emission sources with an overall increasing demand for energy. We were reminded that Alberta does not operate in isolation. We heard that Alberta’s high quality, low-sulfur coal could provide a global benefit over other coal that will otherwise be used by foreign jurisdictions, but that Alberta must achieve environmental outcomes independent of international economics and environmental interests.
The coal categories were another topic of discussion. We heard suggestions to re-think the categories to better align with the province today, in contrast to when the 1976 Coal Policy was implemented. For example, the location of Category 2 leases beside key recreational areas was of significant concern. A dedicated policy for the Eastern Slopes was also suggested.
Lastly, communities voiced their support for local decisions and interests and concerns about federal interventions on energy decisions.
In addition to the meetings, the committee was able to tour the Coalspur Vista Mine that is actively mining thermal coal. We also visited the Luscar and Cardinal River metallurgical coal mine sites owned by Teck Resources; these sites are under various states of reclamation. We learned about the sites being reclaimed, the successes to date, and how they respond to changing requirements over time. The Committee appreciated seeing a fully reclaimed site at the Luscar mine.
The tour of central Alberta was very informative and we thank everyone for their time and input. The experience was valuable as we consolidate feedback from the southern tour and all the submissions we have received to date.