Crowsnest Pass welcomes mining company
By Joni MacFarlane
Crowsnest Pass Promoter
“I think it’s a boom to the economy of the Crowsnest Pass and to all of southern Alberta,” said Mayor Bruce Decoux describing a proposed coal mine at Grassy Mountain by Australian firm, Riversdale Resources.
At a press conference held on January 8, Mayor Bruce Decoux explained how Riversdale approached the municipality.
“They were intensely interested in the people of the Crowsnest Pass… they are interested in a steady workforce and wanted to know what type of objections we might have to a mine and what our long-range plans are,” he said. “They were also concerned, I think, with government stability… and a well laid out plan for the future and they wanted to know if they would fit into that plan.”
Mayor Decoux said at that time, Riversdale wasn’t entirely sure of their plans but within a short time, the land deal with Consol Energy and Devon was conditionally approved.
“You have to understand that if these fellows want to come in and start an industry and they purchase the land, it’s pretty much their show,” said the mayor. “But the thing they wanted to be assured about was the cooperation of the community and in particular, the council in their endeavours.”
Describing the company as “very environmentally concerned,” Mayor Decoux said before this company came to the Pass, they examined all the environmental concerns and have “promised us a very clean operation.”
“[Riversdale] asked if they’d be welcomed here and… they wanted to know if there were any red flags and I said I don’t see any red flags if they follow all the environmental rules and stick to them quite steadfastly.”
He said he talked to the company about the municipality’s long-range plans for tourism and emphasized that it must be sustained.
In response to criticism that coal mining conflicts with the Crowsnest Pass’s plan to position itself as a tourism/recreation destination, Mayor Decoux said council’s perception was that Riversdale has met all provincial regulatory requirements.
“They indicated to us that this would not be an unsightly mess such as some of the mines that we’ve had in the past,” he said. “The mine buys property, goes through the government process and follows the rules, the town council cannot, other than say we don’t like you here, say it. So the best thing to do is to work with them and to ensure that they are good citizens.”
Mayor Decoux said he believes this operation will be of great benefit to local businesses and estimates about 100 people will be employed – with another 600 indirectly affected – but was also concerned about the company’s longevity.
“I didn’t want to even be associated with an outfit that’s going to come in for two or three years, get everyone’s hopes up, everyone works hard, and then they pull out,” he said.
Based on market conditions and the amount of coal, the mayor said the operation estimates production for 28 years.
On the subject of tax revenue, he confirmed that the proposed Grassy Mountain mining operation is located in the M.D. of Ranchland who would benefit from the tax income.
Along with M.D. Ranchland’s linear assets, the proposed mine site is another reason to proceed with the annexation process, he said.
“We’ll get all the benefit of the mine, but they will get the taxation,” he said.
Although Riversdale is exploring several options to move the coal to the railway, Mayor Decoux confirmed that using Highway 3 would impact infrastructure in the Crowsnest Pass including long-term plans for highway upgrades. He said he has written Alberta Premier Alison Redford asking to accelerate the process.
An Australian already working on the project has relocated to the Pass, Mayor Decoux said, and a home and office space have been secured.
Myron Thompson, chief administrative officer, added that Riversdale said they hope to have five or six employees by this spring.
When asked what mining meant for the area, Mayor Decoux said it was something he never thought he’d see happening again but that it would take time.
“This isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot more planning with them coming in, discussing issues with the community and personally, I’ll probably be long gone by the time we actually see any coal coming out of that mountain... But it’s a start.”
He added that the municipality is working towards diversification so the community is not reliant on a single venture.
“We can no longer put ourselves in that position so the be all and end all is one operation,” he said. “To our mode of thinking this is simply one operation, one part of the whole mosaic. If it fails, it fails, but we have others down the line. For too long the Crowsnest Pass has looked at one operation to sustain the whole community. We want to look at multiple operations.”
An open house with representatives from Riversdale is planned for Monday, February 4.