Coal Mining in Clearwater County

February 5, 2021
By: admin

Impacts of Coal Mining in Clearwater County

Published [post_published]
CPAWS Northern Alberta

Clearwater County Council will be discussing and voting this month on their position on open-pit coal mining in some of their best tourism and recreation areas.  Letting them know what you think could make the difference.

Municipalities across Alberta have asked for the Government of Alberta to:

  • Conduct robust public, stakeholder, and Indigenous consultation on any further revisions or replacement of the Coal Policy
  • Immediately stop any ongoing coal exploration or the issuing of new coal exploration permits until public consultation has taken place regarding the future of coal mining in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes
Figure 1. Existing coal leases and agreements within Clearwater County.
Figure 1. Existing coal leases and agreements within Clearwater County.

Impacts to Clearwater County

If you are concerned about the impacts of open-pit coal mining in Clearwater County, please write to the council.

  • Clearwater County is home to world-class hiking, fishing, camping, and hosts some of the most beautiful and scenic views you have ever seen in the Bighorn Backcountry. Coal mining in the region would directly conflict with the County’s recent efforts to position itself as a premier tourism destination. Of particular concern are the scenic and popular areas near Nordegg, including Crescent Falls, Goldeye Lake, and Fish Lake.
  • The Ram River and its tributaries are some of Alberta’s best fly fishing opportunities for bull trout and cutthroat trout. Loss of this habitat due to coal mining would be devastating to one of Alberta’s last strong populations of bull trout. 
  • Open-pit coal mining can leach toxins like selenium into the water. The Eastern Slopes of the Rockies are the water source for millions of Albertans, providing water to residents of Clearwater County, the Drayton Valley, the city of Edmonton, and many more, including our neighbours in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 
  • There are two potential open-pit mine projects in the advanced stages of exploration and planning within Clearwater County: Ram River Coal’s Aries Mine and Valory Resources’ Blackstone Mine.
  • After the policy rescission, the right of first refusal was given to existing coal lease application holders to convert to active coal leases until September 15, 2020. In December, new applications were allowed. Including new leases issued immediately adjacent to Goldeye Lake, Fish Lake, and Crescent Falls, popular recreation destinations (figure 4).
  • On February 8, 2021, the Coal Policy was reinstated, however;
    • All leases issued since June 1, 2020 remain, including 146,442 ha in Clearwater County
    • Seven exploration permits in Category 2 lands were granted 2019 -2020, covering 32,237 ha of land across Alberta. The February 8 release states six of these will be allowed to continue coal exploration and drilling. 
      • Valory Resources’ Blackstone project, in Clearwater County, was one of the recipients of an exploration permit that may be allowed to continue.
      • Exploration activities, such as road building, land clearing, and drilling can be environmentally damaging.

Clearwater County could suffer direct economic losses to its growing and sustainable tourism industry from these recent changes in the rules to allow open-pit coal mining and granting of speculative coal leases in inappropriate areas. Open-pit coal mines have not been allowed in the mountains and foothills of Clearwater County for the past 45 years. Now is the time to speak up and have your voice heard on this matter: the future legacy of our Rocky Mountains hangs in the balance. 

See a list of all Clearwater County councillors here, or copy-paste from below:

Councillor e-mail addresses:

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]


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