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City Council wants public consultation for coal mining projects

​Lethbridge City Council wants its voice to be heard in regards to any current and future coal mining projects on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies.

Council members on Tuesday voted unanimously to support other communities in their ongoing efforts and directed the Mayor to write a letter to Premier Kenney, as well as the Ministers of Environment and Energy and the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to include:

  • Thank the Government of Alberta for re-instating the 1976 Coal Policy
  • Bring forward a comprehensive public consultation on proposed changes to the 1976 policy
  • Complete a thorough and complete analysis of potential watershed impacts that will result from allocating water to mining operations that could impact the supply of water to existing and future downstream users
  • Complete a thorough and complete analysis of potential water quality impacts from mining operations, including but not limited to, higher levels of selenium in the river systems
  • To review the Mine Financial Security Program to ensure that it is properly financed to ensure reclamation of any project that may go ahead
  • A full stop on any and all Watershed Water Allocation amendments, including those in the Oldman Watershed, pending Public Consultation on a new Alberta Coal Policy and comprehensive review of the potential watershed impacts on the Oldman Basin
  • Support on the Stop Work Orders for all existing exploration
  • Invite the two Lethbridge MLAs and the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge to a conversation with Council on these matters, and to forward a copy of the letter to them

On Monday, it was announced that Alberta's government is reinstating the 1976 coal policy after hearing concerns raised by Albertans about surface mining in the Eastern Slopes.

But, as Lethbridge is downstream and gets its water from the Oldman River, any proposed projects have the potential of affecting the water in the entire Oldman Watershed, so council members say they want their position to be noted.

"Lethbridge's and southern Alberta's economy and jobs may be impacted long-term if water quality issues affect the quality of our irrigation water and the reputation of our agri-food processing hubs may be damaged for years," says Councillor Rob Miyashiro, who co-moved the resolution with Councillor Belinda Crowson.

"Lethbridge and surrounding communities obtain their drinking water from the Oldman River and do not have the ability, as other communities affected by selenium pollution do, of digging a new well or finding a new source of water," says Councillor Crowson. "There is at present, little scientific information on how to address selenium at the water treatment level and there are growing concerns among other southern Alberta communities. This is about both quality and quantity of water. A large part of our amendments focused on that point and the potential detrimental effects on agriculture, industry and people in worst case scenarios."

At its October 19, 2020, meeting, Council voted unanimously to have the Mayor send a letter to the Alberta Minister of Environment & Parks, copying the Premier of Alberta and the MLA for Lethbridge East. The letter highlighted City Council's concerns regarding water quality and also referenced the Oldman Watershed Council Submission to the Joint Review Panel on the Grassy Mountain Coal Project and Proposed Open Coal Mining in the Headwaters Region of the Oldman River. That letter was sent last month.

More information on water treatment and water quality in Lethbridge can be viewed here:

https://www.lethbridge.ca/living-here/water-wastewater/Pages/How-we-treat-our-water.aspx

https://www.lethbridge.ca/living-here/water-wastewater/Pages/Water-Quality-Summary.aspx