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LETTER: Speaking up to protect the eastern slopes from coal mining

Editor: Since moving to Banff from Saskatchewan in the fall of 2021, I have become aware of the issues surrounding Alberta’s coal policy.


Since moving to Banff from Saskatchewan in the fall of 2021, I have become aware of the issues surrounding Alberta’s coal policy.

My alarm bells were raised when I heard about the potential damage coal mining on the eastern slopes has on not only our mountain tops but on the watersheds downstream.

When my partner worked in southern Saskatchewan, I got to spend time there and see the importance of the grazing from both bison and cattle on that area for the health of native prairie plants. I am very concerned for the health of that ecosystem if mining were to be allowed upstream.

Additionally, I am opposed to a boom and bust economy that is caused by these mining projects. A few thousand jobs is not worth risking endangering our cattle industry and harming our native prairie. It bothers me to think of the short sightedness of the UCP's decision to go ahead and still honour the Benga Leasehold.

On MLA Miranda Rosin’s website, she mentions that honouring this lease is important because it fosters investor support in Alberta. I question the rationale behind that statement because of the actual benefits this project has to Alberta – and many Albertans (70 per cent) have posed their objections to any coal mining on the eastern slopes because they do not see the benefits.

I have a lot to learn about the economic state and realties of Alberta, but I hesitate to think that coal mining is a solution, when the reality is that our world is needing to go further away from resource extraction based on fossil fuels.

My father worked in the fossil fuel industry for his whole career, and while it provided for our family, it was not a good industry to work for. My dad had to move from oil company to oil company based on the boom and bust nature of the job. Not only did our family have to move provinces a few times, but it also caused my dad anxiety not knowing when downsizing would happen again.

When I worked at a federal prison in Prince Albert, I met a number of inmates who had worked in the oil industry and had fallen on hard times due to the nature of boom and bust. Many of them had gotten used to the good money they had made while working on the rigs, and then when they were let go they resorted to selling drugs to make up for the revenue they once had, and to sustain a lifestyle that they had been accustomed to. Why are we continuing to support these trades that leave workers without versatile skills to use once their jobs are finished?

Although the UCP government has said they are halting the changes to the coal policy, it is clear by their actions with the Benga Mine Leasehold that they are still moving in the direction of developing coal on the eastern slopes.

If we do not speak up now for protection of the mountains, grasslands, and for workers, we will see severe consequences down the line.

Heather Driedger,