In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)

First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News

The Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene in a court challenge to the United Conservative government’s rescinding of a policy that placed restrictions on coal mining in Alberta.

The removal of the 1976 coal policy, which expressly forbids open-pit mining over a large area, was done quietly and without consultation in early 2020. It’s come to attention as a result of Australian company Riversdale Resources’ planned open-pit coal mine in Crowsnest Pass’s Grassy Mountain on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

“The eastern slopes, the Rocky Mountains and the foothills, are at the heart of what the Alberta identity is. This policy change threatens that,” said Ian Urquhart of the Alberta Wilderness Association, which is also seeking intervenor status.

In another interview, Urquhart said the project will “decapitate” the mountain.

The challenge, which will be heard beginning Jan. 19, was facilitated by southern Alberta ranchers John Smith, Laura Laing, and Mac and Renie Blades.

At issue is the duty to consult with stakeholders who are dependent on the water from the Red Deer, Oldman and South Saskatchewan rivers, all of which flow from the eastern slopes.

Open pit mining already occurs on the British Columbia side of Crowsnest Pass, courtesy of Teck Resources, which was fined $1.4 million by the federal government for effluent contamination.

Riversdale Resources boasts letters of support from five Treaty 7 bands — the Piikani, Kainai, Siksika, Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations — as well as Alberta’s Metis Nation and the National Coalition of Chiefs.

But Kainai member Latasha Calf Robe, who started Niitsitapi Water Protectors when she found out about the Grassy Mountain project in November, says there’s a major gap between the views of leadership and the people on this project.

“No community-level consultation has been done on the Blood Tribe,” she told APTN, “and, as far as I know, has not been done with any of the communities in Treaty 7.

“So those letters of support that were issued were issued without community-level consultation in any of these communities.”

Calf Robe expressed health, environmental and spiritual concerns about Grassy Mountain.

“These coal mines will directly impact our Blackfoot spirituality and ceremonies,” she added. “We will no longer be able to gather the plants, medicines and animals needed to perform our traditional ceremonies.

“Our creation stories that are tied to these areas of land will be erased.”

The government is attempting to get the challenge thrown out of court, arguing that the coal policy was implemented by legislative fiat, so it can also be removed by the government.

Cabin Ridge Coal is also seeking to intervene on the government’s side, because it’s already invested in exploration leases.

Since the coal policy’s removal, the government has sold exploration leases on about 1.4 million hectares of land.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

(File photo/Lauren Collins Vana)
Ponoka cat owners have until July 1, 2021 to purchase licenses

Town council passed new Animal Control Bylaw Feb. 23

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Most Read