More details surface on the future of Mine 14, one of the four coal projects labelled as an ‘advanced project’ in March 2022
April 29, 2022
ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᐊᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton), AB – CPAWS Northern Alberta has recently learned that Valory Resources Inc. has acquired Mine 14, a proposed underground coal mine 3.2 kilometres outside of Grande Cache and plans to begin development this year, with coal production beginning early 2023. In early March, the Minister of Energy announced that all coal exploration and development will be restricted across the Eastern Slopes in all four coal categories, including categories that were previously open to coal development in the 1976 Coal Policy, until the completion of regional land use planning. However, four ‘advanced’ proposals – Grassy Mountain, Tent Mountain, Vista Expansion and Mine 14 were exempted from these restrictions. Mine 14 acquired its mine license in 2011, however, no apparent activity has happened since then. According to a presentation delivered to the MD of Greenview in early 2022, Valory resources acquired Summit Coal, and has reinitiated its plans to develop the mine.
All coal mining presents significant risks to watersheds and wildlife, but especially in this region where wildlife populations are already under pressure. CPAWS is concerned about the potential environmental impacts stemming from this mine and its associated operations – especially with the new rushed project timeline. We have concerns that the added landscape disturbance, increased traffic, water use, and water use impacts to surrounding ecosystems will present a concerning risk to local wildlife species such as threatened native trout and grizzly bears, and negatively impact bighorn sheep and mountain goat.
There is very little information available on the project. The environmental section of the company’s presentation to the MD of Greenview refers to their other project, the Blackstone mine near Rocky Mountain House, rather than the Mine 14 site near Grand Cache. This raises concerns that the proponent is not presenting key environmental information for the specific location of this mine, and do not have sufficient understanding of the local environmental conditions.
“It is worrying to us that Summit Coal was acquired by Valory Resources only months before this mine was designated as an “advanced project”, and that we can find no public records of any environmental impact assessment for this mine project.” says Tara Russell, Program Director for CPAWS Northern Alberta. “The environment deserves a diligent review of the risks that this mine poses to water and wildlife. Regulatory approvals that were granted more than ten years ago should be subject to review, given changes in the urgency to act on climate change and conserve species at risk.” However, it appears that the project will not meet the requirements for a federal review, which makes a thorough provincial review even more important.
The proposed mine would be located near the headwaters of the Smoky River, in the Peace River watershed. We have concerns with the proximity to water courses that are habitat for several native fish species, including bull trout and arctic grayling.
We have additional concerns with regards to caribou, as the proposed mine also lies in between two caribou ranges. The A La Peche caribou herd to the south already struggles with mortality caused by heavy traffic along Highway 40. We are worried that the additional traffic and disturbance associated with a new coal mine could be a bigger challenge for the caribou herd.
The Government of Alberta’s March 4th coal announcement indicated that all decisions on coal mining would be addressed in future land use planning, except for four mines designated as advanced projects, including Mine 14. While CPAWS does not support any further coal exploration or development of coal in the Rockies and eastern slopes, it seems especially wrong in this circumstance given that the Government of Alberta is currently drafting a subregional plan for the area that is supposed to be released this coming fall, the same time that Valory anticipates beginning project work.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the biodiversity within them. Over the last 50+ years, CPAWS has played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory. Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.
CPAWS has chapters in almost every province and territory across Canada, and two chapters here in Alberta – a Southern Alberta chapter located in Calgary and a Northern Alberta chapter located in Edmonton. As a collaborative organization, CPAWS works closely with government of all levels, industry representatives, and communities to manage our impact on a shared landscape. We also advocate for the creation of parks and protected areas for the benefit of both current and future generations of Canadians.