Impacts of Coal Mining on the City of Edmonton and Surrounding Areas

February 19, 2021
By: admin

Impacts of Coal Mining on the City of Edmonton and Surrounding Areas

Published [post_published]
CPAWS Northern Alberta

On February 22, Edmonton City Council voted unanimously to pass a motion requesting a review of the impacts of coal mining on Edmonton and a stop to coal exploration & development. Mines negatively impact water quality and quantity and could directly affect Edmonton’s water supply. 

Impacts of Coal Mining on the City of Edmonton and Surrounding Areas
Impacts of Coal Mining on the City of Edmonton and Surrounding Areas

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.

What's going on in your water source?

  • There are 149,060 ha of coal leases, with two open-pit mine projects in the stage of exploration and planning within the category 2 lands in Edmonton’s source waters
    • Ram River Coal’s Aries Mine, 357 km upstream from Edmonton
    • Valory Resources’ Blackstone Mine, 398 km upstream from Edmonton
  • In December, new leases were issued beside Goldeye Lake, Fish Lake, and Crescent Falls, all of which are popular recreation destinations for Edmontonians and situated upstream of the City’s water source
  • On February 8, 2021, the Coal Policy was reinstated, however;
    • All leases issued since June 1, 2020, remain, including 149,060 ha in Edmonton’s headwaters.
    • Seven exploration permits in Category 2 lands were granted 2019 -2020, covering 32,237 ha of land. The February 8 release states six of these will be allowed to continue coal exploration and drilling.  Exploration activities, such as road building, land clearing, and drilling can be environmentally damaging.
      • Valory Resources’ Blackstone project, in Edmonton’s headwaters, was one of the recipients of an exploration permit that may be allowed to continue.
  • EPCOR’s (water supplier for Edmonton and surrounding areas) headwaters protection plan deems coal ‘low risk’, and only 17% of Edmonton’s headwaters are protected. In comparison, under the City of Calgary’s headwaters protection plan, 63% are protected.

Impacts of open-pit coal mining in Edmonton’s source waters

  • Open-pit coal mining can leach toxins like selenium into the water. The headwaters of the North Saskatchewan Rivers are the water source for millions of Albertans, providing water to residents of Clearwater County, Drayton Valley, the City of Edmonton, Spruce Grove, Leduc, and many more, including our neighbours in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 
  • The mountains and foothills that supply Edmonton’s water are also 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. The headwaters region, in David Thompson Country,  is a popular recreation destination for Edmontonians and a  tourism draw for the region as a whole. Open-pit coal mining would destroy views and restrict access to trails for recreation users. 
  • Coal exploration and development causes loss of habitat for species at risk, including bull trout and grizzly bears. 
  • Industrial development in the headwaters region can harm the resiliency of water quality  and quantity in the face of climate change 
  •   Building roads, clearing land, and drilling test pits for coal exploration and mining will decrease fishing opportunities in Alberta’s rivers including the Ram River, The Ram River is one of Alberta’s best bull trout fisheries and provides habitat for Alberta’s last strong populations of bull trout. 
  • 77% of Edmontonians surveyed felt commercial use of public land should not be allowed  where it could potentially have a negative impact on water quality 

Read the full briefing note

Impacts of Coal Mining on the City of Edmonton and Surrounding Areas

We need better management for coal in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes

  • Replacing the coal policy should strengthen, not weaken, protections for Alberta’s Eastern slopes
  • There should be a full stop on exploration and development until current coal policy is replaced using a process that includes robust public and Indigenous consultation
  • Municipalities should be fully consulted in the development of a new coal policy
  • Sources of drinking water for municipalities should have more protections

It is imperative that the province stop all coal exploration and development in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes (source waters for Edmonton and area) until such a time that robust public and Indigenous consultation has been completed and a replacement for the Coal Policy is in place.

We encourage the City of Edmonton to:

  • engage with the province as a stakeholder in the replacement of the Coal Policy,
  • form an official stance on coal development in source water areas,
  • advocate for the protection of the headwaters, and
  • direct EPCOR to update their headwaters protection plan
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