There is a growing threat in the Livingstone region.

2020-01-31


Grassy Mountain from top of Nez Perce Ridge
Photo: Alistair Des Moulins

When asked for other topics for discussion at the meeting of the Castle, Livingstone, Porcupine Hills Recreation Advisory Group (CLPHRAG) on 26th November I suggested we should discuss the impact of possible mines on our area of interest thinking it was something that we would need to look at some time in the future. I was at the Crowsnest Conservation Society AGM and got further information about 4 of the 5 companies exploring and developing coal leases in the area. It was only on the 14th December when my wife and I hiked up a 6500’ summit 6.5 km due north of Coleman that I started to realize the full impact of all this on the whole Livingstone Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) if mines were developed throughout all the coal lease areas.
The day was fine and calm and it was quiet, a perfect hiking experience. I looked east to Grassy Mountain 5 kilometres away (the site of Riversdale’s proposed mine, photo 1) and thought: If that mine goes ahead, hiking here will be a very different experience. If there was an ATV on Grassy Mountain I would hear it now but it would go away. The sound of a mine would be much louder and constant and would likely be heard 24/7 for 25 years. 7 kms to the south east of Grassy Mountain is Livingstone Ridge, another popular hiking destination, from where the constant hum of mining would also be heard (photo 2). I looked NE (photo 3) and realized I would likely also see and hear Atrum Coal’s Elan South mine 6 kms away if that was approved.
Back home I looked at the map of all coal leases in the Livingstone PLUZ and realized that on our hike we were also on the eastern edge of Montem resources’ Chinook project so there might be a mine in the valley immediately to the west as well (see https://http://montem-resources.com/projects/chinook-project/).
But even more depressing than all this, I realized that if mines are situated in all of the areas currently being, or soon to be, explored, from Isola in the north to Tent Mountain in the SW, ALL of the many hikes I have done in the Livingstone PLUZ could be impacted by mining activity. Much of the Great Divide Trail, currently being constructed in the PLUZ is within 6 km of Montem’s Chinook and Vicary-Racehorse areas so the GDT would be impacted as well. The whole area would be more like a “Private Industrial Park” instead of a Public Land Use Zone!
I have attached more photos from some of my hikes throughout the Livingstone PLUZ. On these I have marked where mines could be and clearly these potential developments would adversely affect the hiking experience. There are also people in Crowsnest Pass (CNP) developing businesses based on quiet recreation. Potential clients of these businesses will not be attracted to this area if mining affects much of the PLUZ.
The fact that exploration is permitted in all these areas means that the government would likely approve a mine in the area if the company made such a proposal. It would be very immoral of government to allow exploration then say no to a resulting mine proposal! What I think is needed is some kind of cumulative impact assessment process of say 3 mines distributed throughout the area to determine whether some of the exploration should even be started.
I see mining as very different resource activity compared to logging and oil and gas. Logging and Oil and Gas come in to an area, make disturbance, noise and mess for a season then leave. Mining, as proposed by these companies, will be ongoing disturbance, noise and mess 24/7 for more than 25 years.

At earlier meetings of the CLPHRAG we have had presentations about the potential tourism that recreation in the PLUZ will bring to the surrounding communities. Recently the government announced a 10 year tourism strategy to double the industry’s value to the province. Personally, when I look for places to go on vacation, I avoid places with a lot of mining activity.

In view of all what I have said above, at the next CLPHRAG meeting I think we must have:
a. some definitive statements on how the government proposes to deal with these mining developments in the PLUZ and
b. some explanation of how a mine fits into the Linear Footprint Management Plan and Human Spatial Footprint Plan which has not yet been completed but was committed to in the LFMP.
c. Some explanation of how the tourism strategy for the Crowsnest Pass will move forward in view of all the coal exploration occurring.

Was Environment and Parks aware of all this mining activity when the recreation plan was developed? Most of the area designated as non-motorized in the Recreation Plan is within the coal leases and proposed mine footprints.
I am concerned that if some mines are approved then this CLPHRAG process is going to turn out to be a waste of my time as it will not be an area to which hikers will be attracted.

In order to keep this letter from getting too long I have not even started to address other issues such as:
a. how drilling was permitted to be done 25 metres from the designated Great Divide Trail
b. how exploration and possible mines south of highway 3 have the potential to affect recreation in the northern parts of the Castle Parks and all the mountain bike trails in the area which hikers use as well.
c. how all this mining activity betrays the vision and values of the Livingstone PLUZ recreation plan - the footprint of recreation is limited but that of mining is not.

I look forward to having discussions and getting some statements on mining in the PLUZ from government representatives at the next meeting of the CLPHRAG

Alistair Des Moulins
Alberta Hiking Association
Hiking Representative for Castle Livingstone Porcupine Recreation Advisory Group

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