A ministerial order issued under Alberta’s former environment minister said no new applications will be accepted until land use planning for the area is complete or until the regulator receives a letter from either the province’s energy or environment ministers authorizing it.
At least two members of the group that recommended a pause on coal mining in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains are concerned the province’s regulator appears to have accepted applications to renew an already twice-denied project, in seeming contradiction of government policy.
“It is very concerning that this application appears to have been accepted,” said Ron Wallace, who headed a nine-month public investigation into how Alberta should deal with proposals for open-pit coal mines on the eastern slopes of the Rockies — a commission that recommended a moratorium on such development the government quickly enacted.
Last week, the Australia-based company Northback Holdings resurrected a proposal for the Grassy Mountain steelmaking coal mine in the Crowsnest Pass region of southern Alberta, applying for three licences from the Alberta Energy Regulator allowing them to divert water, drill and run a coal exploration program.
That’s despite a ministerial order issued under former environment minister Sonya Savage. That order says no new applications will be accepted until land-use planning for the area is complete or until the regulator receives a letter from either the province’s energy or environment ministers authorizing it.
“The recommendations from the coal committee were very clear,” said Wallace.
Neither condition has been met.
Bill Trafford, another former member of the committee and an area landowner, said the regulator’s reception of Northback’s application appears to be going against government policy.
“Nobody can figure out how the (regulator) could possibly accept an application from these guys,” he said. “They should have told these guys there’s no point in putting in an application because you can’t get past (the process).”