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Letter: Coal mining projects subject to stringent review

I have directed Alberta Environment and Parks to undertake a selenium management review
area mla
Jason Nixon is the minister of Environment and Parks and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA. File photo

Re: Sundre council takes no action following presentation on coal concerns

I am writing to respond to misleading statements reported on June 22 about a presentation to Sundre council about the provincial government’s policies towards regulation of coal. 

Not only did the government of Alberta reinstate the 1976 coal policy, we are committed to implementing further protections and consulting with Albertans on a new, modern coal policy that has already resulted in a moratorium on exploration activities in Category 2 lands because we are committed to protecting critical watersheds and biodiversity along the eastern slopes of our Rocky Mountains.

It’s important to note, the Canadian drinking water guideline for selenium is 0.05 milligrams per litre and the highest levels of selenium downstream of a mine site was in Luscar Creek at approximately 0.035 milligrams per litre in data collected downstream from active and decommissioned coal mines in the Upper Athabasca Watershed. 

As a result of this work, I have directed Alberta Environment and Parks to undertake a selenium management review in collaboration with the Alberta Energy Regulator. 

The review will look at Alberta’s current approach and regulatory requirements for the application, construction, operation, decommissioning and reclamation of a mine, with the aim to identify any findings that could pose a threat to water quality.

Once the review is complete, we will work with impacted groups on the necessary actions required to protect the quality of our water.

All proposed coal projects continue to be subject to stringent review by the independent Alberta Energy Regulator. 

In many cases, federal impact assessment and joint federal-provincial review also occur. 

Projects can only proceed if approved through these rigorous regulatory processes and adhere to all existing laws and regulations, which for a recent application for development was denied.

I also want to note that taxpayers are protected from paying for end-of-life mine closure costs because coal mines pay the full financial security to reclaim mines with nearly $1 billion currently held to ensure they are reclaimed. 

Several properties in the West Country have been explored by geologists for over 100 years and recent lease applications are in preliminary feasibility stages which is where they were left decades ago without development.

Alberta has a world-class regulatory system with robust regulations. I encourage all Albertans to continue to participate with the coal consultation committee and our selenium management review engagement over the coming months as we develop broader policy recommendations that will protect water quality in Alberta.

Jason Nixon, minister of Environment and Parks and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA