June 16, 2017
Dear Wilderness Defender, Alberta’s endangered woodland caribou desperately need your help. Please fill out a…
The Kakwa region is adjacent to the northernmost border of Jasper National Park.
The Kakwa forms the most northerly portions of the chain of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and includes South Kakwa and Caw Ridge. The area varies from mountainous terrain and alpine meadows in the southern area to rolling hills covered in forest in the north and east areas.
The Kakwa region is adjacent to the northernmost border of Jasper National Park along the (North-South) border of British Columbia. The Kakwa forms the most northerly portions of the chain of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and includes South Kakwa and Caw Ridge. The area varies from mountainous terrain and alpine meadows in the southern area to rolling hills covered in forest in the north and east areas. The Wild Kakwa is a wilderness area of provincial significance. Kakwa contains an ecologically important area known as Caw Ridge. This area provides key habitat for Alberta’s largest population of mountain goats as well as a host of other wildlife. Wild Kakwa together with Willmore Wilderness Park and BC’s Kawka Provincial Park have long been proposed as an inter-provincial Tri-Park.
Caw Ridge is an alpine ridge of provincially and nationally significant estimated at 21600 ha or 21 km2 in size. Located 35 km NW of town of Grande Cache (TWP 58 and 59 RNG 9,10,11 W6) and 7 km east of Willmore Wilderness Park, it is within the Rocky Mountain Alpine Natural Subregion (Northwest Boreal). Caw Ridge is noted as being one of six remaining unprotected biological hotspots in the Rocky Mountain region and is representative of a relatively intact alpine ecosystem. All of Caw ridge was once part of the Willmore Provincial Park, which was established in 1959 and renamed Willmore Wilderness Park in 1965. Caw Ridge was nominated as a candidate for protection in Alberta’s Special Places 2000 campaign.
The Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park was designated in 1996.
Critical bull trout spawning streams, Alberta’s largest population of mountain goats and mountain caribou habitat are at risk from industrial developments.
Coal mining projects adjacent to and on Caw Ridge:
AWA would like to see the phase out coal mining activities on and adjacent to Caw Ridge in order to protect wildlife populations and habitat, particularly the Redrock/Prairie creek caribou herd and the mountain goat population. New lease should not be granted or existing industrial leases and permits amended on or adjacent to Caw Ridge. There must be no new road building or resource extraction activities. If further leases are granted, we recommend that a full EIA and public review be undertaken before allowing further resource extraction adjacent to Caw Ridge.
Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) has found that no new energy rights within Alberta caribou ranges are scheduled for future sales. Two in-range licences covering 24 km2, which had been posted for the August 19 rights auction, have since been withdrawn by Alberta Energy. AWA recognizes the importance of these lease sale withdrawals and urges the Alberta government to defer all new energy leasing within caribou ranges, until strong habitat-recovery range plans are in place to ensure survival of Alberta’s endangered caribou.
On April 29, in the midst of an election, the Alberta government planned another major auction of new oil and gas leases on 35,600 hectares (356 km2) of endangered mountain and boreal woodland caribou habitat, without rules to reduce surface disturbance below current excessive levels. Since September 2014 the Prentice government has auctioned over 1600 km2 of Alberta caribou ranges for oil and gas leases.
On March 5, AWA’s News Release outlined Alberta Government plans to auction new oil and gas leases on 21,000 hectares (212 square kilometers) of endangered mountain woodland caribou habitat, in the Kakwa region of west central Alberta without rules to reduce surface disturbance below current excessive levels.
The Redrock Prairie Creek mountain caribou population was estimated to have declined from 212 animals in 2009 to 127 in 2012, a 40% decline. This population was rated as ‘Stable’ in 2004 when Alberta’s ineffective 10 year caribou recovery plan was put in place.
On March 6, the Alberta government postponed the auction within the endangered Redrock Prairie Creek mountain woodland caribou range. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) welcomed this decision and called on the Alberta government to defer further energy lease sales in endangered caribou ranges until effective rules were in place to protect and recover their habitat.
Following this decision, the Alberta government posted new energy leases for sale in the same endangered mountain caribou range in west central Alberta where it cancelled lease sales on March 6. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) asks the Alberta government for consistent decisions to recover Redrock-Prairie Creek and Narraway mountain caribou, and to adopt the principles of the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) 2012 proposal for Redrock-Prairie Creek caribou range management.
In May of 2014, Alberta’s ‘mountain’ caribou were assessed as Endangered – in immediate danger of extinction – by Canada’s Species at Risk Act scientist advisors (COSEWIC). Yet the Alberta government plans to sell off a further 1,765 hectares of energy leases in these endangered caribou ranges from May 14 to June 25, in apparent disregard of the habitat crisis facing its caribou. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) called on the Alberta government to stop undermining caribou survival chances and to halt new leasing and surface disturbance within caribou ranges.
The Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) prepared a proposal for a pilot conservation plan for the endangered Redrock-Prairie Creek mountain woodland caribou population. The plan envisioned continued long-term timber harvest deferral, with compensation for the affected leaseholder, plus rules for energy development that would greatly reduce surface disturbance, compatible with caribou recovery. A slide presentation to illustrate the proposal was also prepared.
Grande Cache Coal is sold to Chinese-based Winsway Coking Coal Holdings Ltd. and Japanese-based Marubeni Corporation.
Maxim Power Corp. given expedited project approval to construct new coal-fired power plant in time to ensure the plant is constructed and commissioned before July, 2015 when new federal emissions regulations come into effect.
According to local Fish and Wildlife biologists, mountain goat populations on Caw Ridge, and Mt. Hamell have decreased in recent years. The population count on Caw Ridge has gone from over 160 in 2009 to 95 in 2011. On Mt. Hamell, population counts have decreased from 68 in 2009, to 42 in 2011. The main hypothesis to explain these declines is delayed density-dependence.
Maxim Power Corp. applied to expand HR Milner power plant, outside of Grande Cache AB. AWA has opposed this expansion, and is concerned with the increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased extraction and discharge of wastewater into the Little Smoky River, and impact of increased development and exploratory activities within the vicinity of Caw Ridge.
AWA was not granted “standing” by AB Environment, meaning it was not deemed that AWA members would be directly or adversely affected by the construction of No.12 South B2 Underground Mine. In response to this, GCC Environment Manager Bernd Martens invited a local AWA member to participate in an Environmental Monitoring Committee, as an observer with no voting rights.
AWA submits Statement of Concern in regard to GCCs proposed No.12 South B2 Underground Mine. Our primary concern is the significant habitat and migration routes that Caw Ridge and adjacent lands provide to a diverse range of Alberta’s wildlife. AWA requests a full public inquiry into resource development on Caw Ridge.
Information released to AWA from a 2008 application under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act contains copies of selected correspondence concerning mining development proposals on Caw Ridge detailing how the concerns of local Fish and Wildlife staff that exploration would have serious implications for threatened caribou populations on the ridge have been consistently ignored over a number of years.
AWA continues to oppose development on Caw Ridge and at present applications for coal mining are in process. AWA is frustrated by the limited definition of “directly affected” that government agencies are applying to decisions of whether our Statements of Concern will be considered in decisions to allow permits for exploration – not only here on Caw Ridge but whenever applications for resource extraction or impacts to public land issues are being considered by the regulators.
In a letter to Alberta Environment, AWA registers concern over a proposed road through the bottom of the Westridge pit to the Sheep Creek breaker, which could be used as a shortcut for hauling coal in future developments. Additionally, AWA notes that the Application for Amendment submitted by Grande Cache Coal does not submit an estimated cost for the reclamation of No. 8 mine nor the amount they propose to post as a reclamation security. In order to guarantee that the burden does not fall on Alberta’s taxpayers, AWA recommends that Grande Cache Coal pay the complete and true cost of the reclamation at the time of greatest ground disturbance, as well as any funds needed to cover shortfalls if the cost of reclamation becomes greater than the security fund
Petro-Canada informs AWA that it has cancelled its plans to drill in Kakwa.
The Energy Resources Conservation Board announces that Grande Cache Coal has applied to develop, operate, and reclaim the No. 8 mine project. The project includes a surface mine, associated infrastructure, haul road, and three settling ponds. The resulting new disturbance is expected to be 814 ha in size and is expected to produce 1,680,000 tonnes of raw coal per year. AWA does not oppose the No. 8 mine project but expects the area to be fully reclaimed.
The Calgary Herald reports that a study by wildlife consultant Wayne McCrory warns that grizzly bears and wolverines in Kakwa are at risk due to excessive snowmobile use. Snowmobile groups have been lobbying to maintain uncontrolled access to the area.
460 mountain pine beetle-infected trees are identified in Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park. Alberta Community Development has agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding to work with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development in addressing mountain pine beetle. No definitive plans are made, but strategies considered include using helicopters to bring people in to cut and burn isolated infected trees, and clear-cut logging.
April 20: AWA receives a letter from GCC stating that “Grande Cache Coal Corporation is committed to conducting mining operations in an environmentally responsible manner.”
April 8: AWA travels to Grande Cache and takes a tour of the GCC Mine 12 B2 pit:
AWA representatives are given a tour of the Grande Cache Coal B2 mine pit.
AWA writes to the Honourable Guy Boutilier to ask that no new leases are sold and no amendment approvals be granted under existing leases permitting activity on Caw Ridge.
AWA receives a copy of an application for Amendment EPEA Approval for No. 12 mine B2 Phase 2 mine. It is a copy of GCC’s application to complete mining and reclamation of the B2 Extension Pit where GCC is currently operating. According to GCC, the B2 Phase 2 Mine is a logical completion of the presently approved B2 Phase 1 Mine (April 2004). B2 Phase 2 Mine (December 2004) and reclamation plan offers a rational and fully secured plan that meets the objectives of recovering an economic coal resource and achieving reclamation at a site that was in a substantially disturbed and unreclaimed condition.
Dec 16: GCC submits an application for amendment of its EPEA approval for No. 12 Mine South B2 Extension- Phase 2 Mine, ”Ultimate Phase II.”
GCC negotiates a price of $125 US per tonne for 2/3s of its 2005 production, sharing the highest price ever secured for Canadian hard coking coal. The average price in 2004 was $64 per tonne. The large increase is due to a global shortage of hard coking coal.
Correspondence between AWA and Bernd Martens: Martens says that GCC will soon file for further amendment to cover the completion f the pit (Phase 2).
GCC submits an application for the amendment of 2 mine licenses to the EUB for the B2 Phase 2 mine:
Aug 26: GCC receives EPEA amending approval from Alberta Environment to conduct Phase 1 of the B2 pit operations. Mining of B2 pit begins. Alberta Environment states they have received reclamation security for the B2 Phase 1 mine application.
Aug 17: AWA tours Caw Ridge and the B2 Pit Mine with Brian Bildson.
In correspondence with Bernd Martens, he indicates “GCC has chosen to phase in approvals so the Phase 2 amendment covers the completion of mining within the remainder of the EUB mine licence area that includes a reclamation plan…The Phase 1 application shows the Phase 2 mine development area. The B2 area is contained within a ‘bowl’ of the drainage of a tributary of Beaverdam Creek so it is not part of Caw Ridge. The B2 pit is a culmination of a series of pits and rock dumps developed by SRCL. The area was in a disturbed land condition. In our view, the area can only be reclaimed upon removal of the coal.”
Alberta Environment responds to AWA’s submission. Alberta Environment does not consider AWA as directly affected by the application.
July 30: AWA sends a third submission to Alberta Environment with regards to the re-opening of mine 12, pit B2. In the submission, AWA states again that the B2 pit ought to be closed and reclaimed on account of its location on a steep hillside in prime wildlife habitat. AWA is concerned because the paltry $7.5 million reclamation fund demanded of bankrupt Smoky River Coal Ltd. will cover only a small fraction of the actual cost. AWA wants to be assured that Alberta Environment has employed full-cost accounting, including all costs associated with re-contouring and reclamation, and restoring lost wildlife habitat and the natural aesthetics of the slope and access road, as well as make public their accounting process and final amount being demanded of Grande Cache Coal as a reclamation security bond for the B2 pit and road.
June 29: AWA forwards a letter on the K.K Singh Regional Approvals Manager, Northern Region. AWA argued its right to represent the public interest given out long history within the region as well as our rights under Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
June 14: GCC sends letter of response to AWA regarding their June 2004 submission:
June 8: Correspondence from Steve Cote, Professor of Biology at Laval University. Research shows that goats did not use the site adjacent to the B2 mining area. This suggests a strong impact of mining activities on space used by the goats. They are concerned the mining will impact the goats and their behaviour. Development of south lobe as part of a new phase of the B2 extension would impact mountain goats by decreasing habitat, decreases population size and decrease the migration of goats along the ridge.
Correspondence between AWA and Brian Bildson regarding Public Notice of B2 amendment”:
The haul road clearing and road construction for No. 7 mine begins. There is public concern as June is goat kidding time on Mt Hamel. GCC expects to be removing coal from No. 7 by December 2004
AWA makes a submission to Alberta Environment regarding GCC’s application for amendment to re open of B2 pit mine. Main points of emphasis include :
AWA makes a submission on the Grande Cache Coal Corporation’s application to re-open Mine 12, Pit B. AWA is concerned that allowing further development of B2 will facilitate extension of development by increment to the detriment of wildlife.
Alberta Environment asks that AWA outline concerns specific to the development proposed in the current application and clarify exactly how individuals from AWA are directly affected by the proposal. In its response, AWA argues that their initial submission does in fact comply with all of the information required to qualify as “directly affected” and “acting in the public interest.”
May 13: GCC announces it has signed a letter of intent with North American Enterprises Ltd. (NAEL) to conduct mining and other services for them. NAEL will:
GCC raises $50M from selling common shares to start mining. The success of GCC will be due to the increase in demand for metallurgical coal. A GCC news Release states: “The net proceed…will be used by the company to fund the initial capital expenditures to develop and equip the No.7 underground mine, the refurbishment of the of the coal process plant, to deposit reclamation security with the Alberta Government, to complete exploration, engineering and permitting of the No. 16 east surface mine and for working capital.”
Public Notice: GCC applies to Alberta Environment for an amendment to the existing approval for the opening up, construction, operation and reclamation of the No. 12 Mine south B2 Extension Phase 1 mine and coal processing facility. The proposed development includes the No. 12 Mine South B2 Extension open pit mine, haul roads, Flood Creek Disposal facility, coal processing plant and associated infrastructure (Twn 58, Ranges 7,8,9, and 10, W6). The amendment includes approximately 10.79 hectares of new disturbance and 262.33 hectares of previously disturbed land and will be reclaimed to wildlife habitat.
The public notification of these actions prompts concern from the environmental community. GCC does not refer to the B2 extension as Caw Ridge but rather as the No.12 Mine B2 pit in order to make it more “acceptable” to the public. The company advises that the coal in B2 is already exposed and the pit already exists. There will be no increased stripping or removal of overburden in this B2 extension.
Brian Bildson submits statement of concern regarding amendment for commence B2 Pit mining.
AWA is notified by GCC that the company will complete the mining and reclamation at the No.12 Mine south B2 Pit developed by SRCL. The majority of the surface disturbance in the B2 mine area occurred during SRCL operations. GCC’s approval to complete mining in the B2 pit area will facilitate the ultimate reclamation of this area.
GCC operations in the B2 Mine area will stay within the boundaries of SRCL approval and mine licenses. These licenses were transferred by EUB to GCC in 2003. SRCL was authorized to operate several settling ponds. These ponds have been maintained by Alberta Environment since SRCL receivership. GCC would assume responsibility of these settling ponds through proposed amendment approval.
May 11: The Grande Cache Coal Corporation gives public notice that it has applied to Alberta Environment to re-open Mine 12, Pit B to mine low-grade coal. High-grade coal was mined from this pit in 1999 until the operator, Smoky River Coal Ltd., went bankrupt. In its wake, Smoky River Coal Ltd. left behind an un-reclaimed open wound and no money to reclaim it. It is uncertain if this mine can be reclaimed. The mine itself sits immediately adjacent to the western side of Caw Ridge, separated only by a large rock berm.
GCC submits an application for amendment of EPEA approval and Water Act Approval of the No. 12 Mine South B2 Extension Pit- Phase 1 portion. This amendment is necessary to enable GCC to complete mining and reclamation at the No. 12 Mine South B2.
GCC acquires EPEA approval for No. 7 mine project. GCC schedules its development so it can begin mining within the No. 12 Mine South B2 area whiled developing the No. 7 mine. This will allow GCC to meet commitments under long term supply agreements with Japan and Korea as well as meeting supply requests from H.R. Milner generating station.
GCC announces the company will be operating by the end of 2004 due to improving coal markets.
GCC holds an Open House in Grande Cache to update and present the proposed No. 12 Mine South B2 Extension Pit Mining and Reclamation Project to the public, and provide an update on the status of regulatory approval and No. 7 underground mine. GCC is seeking financing to complete the No. 7 mine for late 2003.
GCC files an application for the transfer of all SRCL mine licenses.
GCC applied for amendment to its EUB Permit Area and an EUB Licence to mine B2 extension Pit previously operated by Smoky River Coal.
GCC receives final regulatory (EUB) and cabinet approval (mine permit) to commence the No. 7 underground mine and the No. 8 surface mine and associated infrastructure.
Alberta Environment and associated federal and provincial government agencies complete their review of the EIA for No. 7 and No. 8 mines. In their opinion, the EIA is complete pursuant to section 53 of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
GCC releases application for approval of the No. 7 and no. 8 projects to the EUB and Alberta Environment. The application includes the EIA report for No. 7 and No. 8 mine developments and the coal processing facility.
GCC replies to the March 24, 2001 letter from AWA, stating their concern with the goats herd. GCC “believes industrialization of the area can be managed with orderly coal development and timely reclamation.”
GCC conducts technical and environmental Issues Workshop to allow interested parties and stakeholders to contribute to GCC mine development and environmental planning process for the No. 7 and No. 8 mines and operation of coal preparation plant. It is an opportunity to obtain stakeholder input on the proposed mining methods and environmental and social issues.
March 24: AWA submits a letter to GCC regarding concerns of the No. 7 and No. 8 mining projects.
March 5: GCC provides AWA with a copy of the Public Disclosure Document and EIA Terms of Reference for No. 7 and 8 mine projects that the company submitted to Alberta Environment.
Alberta government determines that GCC must complete a full EIA for its operations. The EIA includes No. 7 underground mine and coal preparation plant and tailing pond (once used by defunct Smoky River Coal Ltd.).
AWA correspondence with Brian Bildson:
Nov. 29: AWA sends letter to Bill Macdonald, Director of the Northern East Slopes Region, at Alberta Environmental Protection regarding reclamation of Mine12 and various extensions up the slopes of Caw Ridge. AWA would like to see Caw Ridge be reincorporated back into the Willmore Wilderness Park. AWA concerned over the inadequate funds available for restoration pit.
Nov. 21: GCC holds open houses for the No. 7 and No. 8 mine proposals.
Smoky River Coal is issued an Enforcement Order under Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act after the company fails to produce reclamation plans following its shut down of its mine and coal processing facility on March 30. According to environmental approval, the company had 6 months to submit a decommissioning and land reclamation plan, wildlife management plan and a final reclamation plan to Alberta Environment. The Enforcement Order provides Alberta Environment with the means to ensure that the monitoring continues and reclamation is carried out.
AWA remains concerned: will $7M fund be enough to complete reclamation? Does this fund exist and can it be drawn upon or does it exist only in the books, i.e. what is the likelihood that SRC or its receiver will actually pay reclamation costs or will the reclamation fall to the Alberta taxpayer?
Smoky River Coal Ltd. is issued an Enforcement Order under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act following the company’s failure to produce reclamation plans after the shutdown of the mine and coal processing plant near Grand Cache. The company had six months to submit a decommissioning and land reclamation plan, a wildlife management plan, and a final reclamation plan to Alberta Environment. The Enforcement Order allows Alberta Environment to ensure that monitoring will continue and reclamation is carried out.
Sept 6: Grande Cache Coal Company Inc. (GCC), an affiliate of Smoky River International (SRI), acquires 2 SRCL leases covering 1,100 ha for operating an underground coal mine No. 7 and surface mine No. 8 mines from the provincial government. Grand Cache Coal Corporation is a private Albert company formed solely for reactivating coal mining in the Grande Cache area. The President /CEO is Robert Stan.
AWA receives a reply from Alberta Environment (Land Management Program Manager Chris Powter) regarding reclamation of Smoky River Coal mine site including B2 Pit extension.
AWA is concerned as they feel reclamation of Caw Ridge should be conducted and that the Ridge be reincorporated back into the Willmore Wilderness Park.
In response to AWA’s request for information regarding reclamation plans for the former Smoky River Coal Ltd. minesite, Chris Powter, manager of the Land Management Program, notes that the reclamation security for surface disturbances at the Smoky River Ltd. minesite is more than $7 million. He claims the “department and board will jointly develop a reclamation plan and cost-estimate for the minesite, as well as a strategy for implementing the plan, in accordance with their respective regulatory responsibilities. It is expected the plan will include reclaiming the B2 Pit.”
AWA sends a letter to Chris Powter, Land Manger at Alberta Environmental Protection, regarding the reclamation of Mine12 and various extensions up the slopes of Caw Ridge. AWA concerned over inadequate funds available for restoration.
Alberta Government, i.e. the Alberta Public, are on the hook for $6.4 million to clean up and reclaim SRCL mine. The province had not properly enforced regulations to force SRCL to put enough money into a reclamation bond. The estimated cost to restore and reclaim the area is $13.5 million but SRCL only posted $7.1 million. SRCL should have provided updates on its reclamation costs and posted enough money in a bond to cover them under provincial regulations.
This is the deadline for other companies to accrue assets of SRCL and decide whether they want to revive the dormant mine operation.
March 30: Operations cease at the Smoky River Coal mine and coal processing plant. The mine is returned to the Crown.
March 14: Westshore withdraws $25 million rescue offer to SRCL. Westshore could not come to a collective agreement with United Steelworkers of America Union, the union under which the miners work.
March 31: Operations in B2 Extension pit cease and SRCL enters receivership. At this time, the majority of B2 extension pit area has been pre-stripped of surface and overburden material and vegetation and the pit has almost reached its mine license limits. High wall in westward portion of pit has been completed. As of March 2000, 350,000 tonnes of coal had been recovered from B2 extension pit.
Smoky River Coal goes bankrupt, a victim to plummeting coal prices and crippling debt. 400 employees lose their jobs. SRCL financial difficulties are from spending $130M on a long wall underground mining system that failed to meet production expectations. Receivership leaves ~ 4.3 million tonnes of recoverable coal in the partially completed B2 pit upon entering receivership. The pit however had reached its maximum area of land disturbance and no reclamation had taken place to the pit and associated waste dump. Thus, the coal leases returned to the crown and reclamation of the lands remained outstanding. The resumption of mine by another company would create an opportunity for the pit and waste dump to be properly reclaimed by someone other than the province. The B2 pit had been mined from 1999 to 2000.
SRCL constructs safety/caribou berm above B2 extension pit highwall in compliance with EPEA amendment approval.
Feb 11: Further to the Caw Ridge pre-inquiry meeting, the EUB defers consideration of the inquiry pending the outcome of the court proceedings related to possible sale of SRCL.
Feb 18: SRCL lays off 41 workers due to their continued financial problems. SRCL has debt of $130million.
Jan 31: Westshore Terminals Income Fund announce they have made an offer of $25 million for SRCL outstanding debts. If transaction is completed, Westshore will manage SRCL’s business.
Jan 26: The EUB holds a pre-inquiry meeting in Edmonton for developing terms of reference for a public inquiry respecting possible future coal mine development in the Caw Ridge area. The public inquiry is to allow SRCL an other interested parties to provide EUB with information in respect to future development in the area and to establish:
Conservation groups tell the EUB it must conduct extensive environmental assessments of additional mining planned for Caw Ridge. The groups argue that the EUB let the mining company evade proper assessment by permitting expansion of open pit mine without comprehensive assessments and pubic hearings.
Jan 13: SRCL holds an open house in Grande Cache to review plans for the proposed No. 7 underground mine at Mount Hamel, the No. 11 Surface mine extension, and the No. 12 Mine South B2 extension modifications.
A Caw Ridge pre-inquiry meeting is held in Edmonton. Following the meeting, the Energy and Utilities Board notifies the various concerned parties that it has decided to defer consideration of the inquiry pending the outcome of court proceedings connected to the possible sale of Smoky River Coal Ltd.
The EUB notifies AWA that they are not considered directly affected by its decision regarding approval of B2 pit development modifications. AWA and CPAWS examine and obtain legal advice from Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) on arguing AWA and CPAWS under “directly affected.” This comes as a result of EUB’s decision for approving the extension which stated no one was directly affected. SLDF is of the opinion that it is unlikely the groups will establish themselves as “directly and adversely affected” by the permit amendments. They believe efforts should be directed at strengthening Brian Bildson’s appeal.
Although Brain Bildson had established he is directly affected and he was granted an appeal, Alberta Environemnt won the argument that the issues raised in his appeal had been adequately addressed by the EUB. The AEAB dismissed Bildson’s appeal based on this fact.
Under CCAA, the Court appointed monitor undertakes an action process to effect the sale of SRCL and its assets.
AWA and CPAWS are denied a hearing in regards to the Smoky River Coal Ltd. proposed extension to the B2 pit. Instead, the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) offers to hold an inquiry to examine development options in Caw Ridge. In response, AWA expresses discontent at the attitude of the EUB, which it feels is dismissive of public interest groups. AWA offers to participate in the suggested inquiry only if (1) it is broadened to include AWA’s full range of concerns, (2) AWA is considered a full partner in the development of the Terms of Reference, and (3) there is written commitment that the inquiry’s findings will be acted upon.
AWA and CPAWS make a partial joint submission of appeal of the EUB decision regarding its October approval of the extension of B2 Pit and dump. AWA and CPAWS request the EUB suspend approval of the application until a full and proper public hearing is held to consider the range of public interest and affected parties in the matter.
Oct. 20: AWA and CPAWS put out a news release: “Government approves extension of another open pit coal mine on ecologically significant Caw Ridge without public input” following the EUB’s approval of a second extension to SRCL an open pit mine B2. The groups believe that public hearings are required to examine the cumulative impact on caribou and mountain goats. This EUB decision marks the second rejected request for public hearings into the expansion of the mine in the last 2 years. The groups argue that SRCL is using a piece meal approach to secure development while avoiding a federal /provincial review assessment.
Oct. 18: The EUB approves the application from SRCL to amend existing license in respect to proposed extension of surface Mine South B2 pit and associated external waste dump. The EUB believes that the proposed extension is logical from a coal resource perspective and will not pose any significant incremental affect to the environment beyond that presented by the original B2 pit development proposal.
Oct. 15: SRCL receives No. 12 Mine South B2 Extension EPEA approval under EPEA Approval issued by Alberta Environment. B2 Phase 1 mine area was reviewed and approved through Alberta Environmental as part of the No. 12 Mine South B2 project.
Oct. 5: Brain Bildson sends a letter to the EUB outlining a meeting he had with SRCL. SRCL discussed with him their on going water quality problems and uncertainly of effective caribou management. Brian stresses he is directly effected by the expansion of B2 pit Mine 12 as he has a trap line in the area. He would also like a public hearing.
In a letter to various interested parties, the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) notes that concerned responses were received from several groups in regards to the application from Smoky River Coal Ltd. to extend a surface mine. However, the EUB believes that the mine extension does not “pose any significant incremental affect to the environment,” nor are any of the groups directly and adversely affected by the development. The EUB therefore approves the application without a hearing.
AWA notifies the Alberta Environmental Protection to object to SRCL application to amend EPEA approvals for extension of B2 Pit mine 12 as the application constitutes a new mine and must undergo a full federal environmental assessment (CEAA).
The EUB sends out a Notice for Objections regarding SRCL’s application for approval to extend the existing No. 12 South B2 pit to accommodate extension of surface mine pit and technical modifications to the dump.
AWA submits formal complaint over SRCL extension of B2 pit to EUB:
Weyco notifies Vern Ambush of Smoky River Coal Ltd. to express continuing concern over the cumulative effects assessment process related to the Red Rock/Prairie Creek caribou herd. He states his disappointment that SRCL did not adopt the new restrictive practices adopted by Weyco to integrate caribou habitat requirements into forest management. Weyco states their commitment to maintaining habitat for mountain caribou.
SRCL applies for amendment to the Environmental Protection & Enhancement Act (EPEA) approval for the No. 12 Mine South B2 Extension project. The amendment needed to accommodate technical modifications to the open pit and waste dump for the No. 12 South B2 extension. The technical modifications were submitted to and accepted by the EUB in December 1998.
SRCL implements a 2 week shut down of their mining operations due to oversupply of metallurgical coal leaving 500 workers without work.
SRCL seeking partner to bail it out of $75 million dollar long term debts and $15 million short term debts. SRCL is put under creditor protection.
Jan 19: SRCL submits application for technical modifications to the EUB for the No. 12 Mine South B2 extension, further to their December 1998 supplemental information.
AWA writes Rod Dempster, Vice President of Weyerhaeuser (Weyco) to contest massive clearcuts in the region of Caw Ridge-Copton Ridge Kakwa River (massive cut blocks planned for Daniel Creek basin between Copton Ridge and Kakwa River).
Dec: SRCL submits the technical modifications application for amendment to EUB. The EUB accepts the technical modifications application.
Nov: The AEAB conducts a preliminary meeting in Edmonton with Alberta Justice and Brian Bildson to address whether the EUB adequately dealt with Mr. Bildson’s concerns raised in his appeal regarding SRCL’s B2 pit extension. This preliminary meeting gives both sides the opportunity to outline legal and factual arguments to the AEAB on whether the EUB’s decision to issue an amendment permit and amendment approvals addressed matters raised in Mr. Bildson’s appeal. Each party is permitted to speak for one hour and followed by Board questions
Oct: The Alberta Environmental Appeal Board (AEAB) concludes that Brian Bildson has proven he is directly affected by the AEP approvals he is appealing, i.e. approvals allowing SRCL to extend existing surface mine (B2) and approval for wastewater discharge from mine. The Board will proceed with preliminary meeting on whether they should consider his appeal in light of previous EUB proceedingsAug: SRCL is put under creditor protection for 90 days to tackle SRCL’s $75 million dollar long term debt and their $15 million short term debts. SRCL begins seeking a partner to assuming half the company’s debt in exchange for receiving the majority of ownership in the company.
July: SRCL placed under Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) protection by its secured lenders. This is to facilitate compromises and arrangements between companies and their creditors.
Brian Bildson, a local trapper, appeals Alberta Environmental Protection (AEP) approvals for B2 extension and the approvals to amend the conservation and reclamation permit and the B2 water approval. The Environmental Law section of Alberta Justice, Civil Law Branch, notifies the Alberta Environmental Appeal Board that they believe Mr. Bildson’s appeal should be dismissed as a) he is not directly affected by the project, and b) he sent his document of concerns outside the allotted time frame for submissions. Mr. Bildson sent his statement of concern to SRCL in August 1997 regarding the B2 extension and should have been submitted prior to this date.
April 24: The EUB approves the SRCL application to amend a permit in order to extend its No. 12 Mine South, referred to as the B2 extension project. The EUB issues the No. 12 Mine South B2 extension permit/license. Alberta Environmental Protection Department approves SRCL’s application to construct and operate No. 12 Mine South B2 extension. This includes granting approval to amend conservation and reclamation approvals and amend the clean water approval project. Environmental groups argue this approval was granted without a public review.
March: SRCL submits a Deficiency Response to EUB (from February 1998 request). The EUB sends letters to interested parties acknowledging they consider SRCL application complete. The EUB does not believe any interested parties would be directly and adversely affected by the development. Therefore, the EUB will make a decision on the application without a public hearing.
Feb: The EUB makes a second request for supplemental information from SRCL regarding B2 pit extension.
The Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park Management Plan is released. The plan focuses on preservation, heritage appreciation, outdoor recreation, and tourism/economic development. Suggested management actions include the completion of a forest inventory and fire management plan, disease and pest control, maintenance of wildlife populations, trail monitoring, signage updating, etc. The management plan notes that the park cannot be managed in isolation. Land use in surrounding areas must consider Kakwa, and Kakwa land-use decisions must consider surrounding areas.
Dec 23: SRCL submits a Deficiency Response to the EUB with respect to the B2 extension project application (from July 1997 request).
Dec: Sam Gunsch (CPAWS) and Vivian Pharis (AWA) meet with Larry Brock (director) and Dennis Eriksen of Environmental Protection Agency regarding reclamation of Caw Ridge.
September: AWA and other environmental groups oppose SRCL’s No. 12 Mine South B2 pit extension:
July: The EUB and Alberta Environmental Protection notify SRCL that they require supplemental information for their application for a permit and license for the No.12 Mine South B2 extension project.
SRCL submits an application to the EUB and Alberta Protection for approvals (permit/license) to extend No. 12 Mine South mine site- referred to as B2 pit extension. The proposed project would replace coal reserves from the B pit which will be exhausted in 1998.
April: SRCL holds an open house and public disclosure meeting in Grande Cache to discuss the No. 12 Mine South B2 extension project.
March: Alberta Environmental Protection notifies SRCL specifying that the proposed No. 12 South B2 extension Pit project (without the C – F pits) will require an EIA report to be completed.
Feb: SRCL withdraws the application to the EUB for the proposed C – F coal pits. SRCL plans to submit a new application only for the No. 12 South B2 pit extension. This withdrawal of the C – F application is thought to have been due to the complexity of a federal review. SRCL reapplied for approval of the first of the new pits; “the B2 extension pit”. SRCL applied for this project as an extension of Mine No.12 for which the company already has approval. In doing so the company does not trigger a joint federal/provincial review of the application for the first pit (C) of the new mine and would set a precedent for the approval of the remaining C – F pits.
Through the Special Places program, a small portion of the AWA Kakwa Area of Concern, is given protected status as Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park.
The EUB and Alberta Protection notify SRCL that the EIA report they submitted in February 1996 s incomplete. Major deficiencies exist and they require additional report information. This additional information must be provided before further processing and review of document. Among the additional information required included:
Sept: The Alberta Government instates new regulatory changes. It is allowing mining companies to build roads and drill holes under new exploration regulations with no public input or approval by authorities and no right to appeals. This new code of practice allows companies to simply submit plans to the Department of Environmental Protection without being subject to a detailed departmental review and approval. Furthermore, the public is has no right t appeal a license for exploration work once it is issued.
July: SRCL files a Deficiency Response for the C – F pit project with EUB to address the information request from the EUB in June 1996.
June: The EUB notifies SRCL that the application for amendment (extension) of a permit to include the No. 12 Mine South C – F pit is incomplete. Prior to processing the application, they require further information.
SRCL submits its EIA report to the EUB and Alberta Environmental Protection for the permit application of the No. 12 Mine South C – F pit project. This application is for an amendment to the EUB permit approving development of the No. 12 Mine South project and an amendment to the existing permit boundary to include extension lands for C-F pits.
In addition to approvals sought through this permit application, a number of related regulatory approvals are required to develop the No. 12 Mine South C – F project. These include :
AWA and other concerned individuals and groups plan to launch a provincial lobby to stop SRCL from advancing its surface mining operation through Caw Ridge with their proposed No. 12 Mine South pits C – F project. This application should trigger a federal environmental assessment process. The proposed mine site is located on the headwaters of the Caw, Nickerson and Beaverdam Creeks.
Other major concerns of this project for wildlife include :
SRCL says No. 12 Mine South extension C – F pits are important to the long term survival of mine and that the company can mine without harming wildlife. As part of this project, SRCL will establish drift fences to direct migrating caribou to other migration routes, educate employees about caribou and establish a caribou response team to monitor movements of the animals, modify development, particularly blasting to cause less stress on the migrating caribou, reclaim the migrating routes and continue caribou research to monitor the impact of the mine.
SRCL holds an open house and public disclosure meeting in Grande Cache to discuss the No. 12 Mine South B2 C – F pit project.
SRCL releases “Assessment of Impact on Caribou of Proposed No. 12 Mine South” report prepared by Renewable Resources Consulting Services Ltd. The conclusions from the report included that the impacts of the No. 12 Mine South on caribou could be minimized by the implementation of an extensive program of monitoring, adaptive management and commitments outlined in environmental protection and reclamation plans. The report identified a need for a flexible approach and the ability to respond quickly to problems identified in the field in relation to caribou. This would be fostered by careful planning and the incorporation of field research results and experience into a mitigation program.
June 2: Alberta Environmental Protection issues the “Final Terms of Reference” for SRCL’s EIA report for the No. 12 Mine South C – F pits surface mine extension.
March: SRCL submits the “Proposed Terms of Reference” to Alberta Environmental Protection for the No. 12 Mine South C – F Pits.
Feb 17: SRCL is informed by Alberta Environmental Protection that the company must submit an EIA report for the No. 12 mine South C – F pit project.
Oct: The Preliminary Disclosure document for the Mine No. 12 B2 pit is approved by government. This EUB Permit Application represents the second step in the regulatory approval process for the mine.
Jan: SRCL submits a Preliminary Disclosure document to the Province of Alberta outlining its intention to develop coal resources within an extension to the Mine 12 project area, called the B2 pit.
June: The ERCB grants SRCL a permit to develop a coal mine and amends the existing permit to include the No. 12 Mine South, dump site and access road. The ERCB also grants SRCL a license to construct an external mine dump.
Dec: SRCL receives word from the Alberta Government (Minister of Energy) that there are no objections to the proposed development of Smoky River No.12 Mine South development. The Minister tells SRCL to initiate their public disclosure process and submit their mine permit application.
June: The ERCB grants SRCL a permit to drill holes to depths greater than 150m for exploration purposes in the No. 7 mine area, a licence to construct an external mine discard dump and a licence to operate a surface coal mine at No. 7.
May: Mountain caribou relocation project initiated by Alberta Fish and wildlife to capture and place radio collars on mountain goats for study.
Jan: ERCB grants SRCL amendment of license to extend their mining activity east of existing operations.
April: The ERCB grants SRCL a permit for the No. 9 and No. 12 mine sites. The ERCB grants SRCL’s application to amend their license to include the development of a high wall pit for the No. 12 South Mine.
Aug 25: The ERCB approves SRCL’s application for a permit for a coal excavation program for exploration purposes in the Copton Creek area.
A section of Kakwa is designated a Wildland Recreation Area.
Sept: SRCL releases an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the development of No. 12 Mine South.
Jan: SRCL plans to extend mining operations to Smoky River No. 12 Mine South, located west of existing operations. The No. 12 mine south lies within 5 coal leases held by SRCL and totals ~ 2240ha in size. SRCL submits application for No. 12 Mine South to Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB)
Nov: McIntyre Mines officially transfer all rights and title licenses to Smoky River Coal Limited. The ERCB amends SRCL license for mine area.
Oct: Dwindling coal prices and sales lead McIntyre Mines to consider selling their Smoky River Coal operations as they report losses of 6.6 million dollars compared to their profit of 8.5 million dollars in 1984.
Dec: SRCL demands amendment of existing mine license for the existing mine pit area. The ERCB grants SRCL a permit to drill exploration holes more than 150m in depth.
The revised Eastern Slopes Policy delineates two zones within Kakwa, a Prime Protection Zone and a General Recreation Zone.
June: McIntyre Mines future is uncertain. The company loses coal sales of $30M dollars and has 250,000 tonnes of unsold coal in stockpiles due to Japanese steel firms reducing their demand for coal. As a result, McIntyre Mines shut down for summer from June 28 to September 20 forcing ~600 people out of work. McIntyre Mines continue discussions with Japanese steelmakers to renew their contract. McIntyre announces the formation of a new subsidiary, Smoky River Coal Ltd. (SRCL) which would acquire McIntyre’s Grande Cache operations. This new subsidiary would allow for corporate decentralization and greater tax advantages.
In response to the mine’s temporary closure, the Municipal government debates the establishment of other tourist/recreation development for the Grande Cache area to increase economic outlook. They propose “Kananaskis II.” The first phase of this project would include the construction of a golf course with a view of the Willmore Wilderness Park.
McIntyre Mines actively recruits mine workers from across Canada to work in their mines.
March: McIntyre Mines to supply 10 Japanese companies with more than 1.6 million tons of coal over the next 2 years. The coal is worth $59/ton.
May: Public hearings are held in Grande Cache regarding the proposal to expand McIntyre No. 9 mine.
AWA receives a letter from Douglas Rae, barrister, regarding McIntyre’s expansion of No. 9 mine. He expresses concern over the lack of discussion on the environmental aspects of expansion and McIntyre’s reclamation procedures. He is worried about impact on watersheds from poorly reclaimed sloped areas. He is asking that an environmental interest group intervene in the formal ERCB hearing to assess McIntyre’s project.
The Eastern Slopes Policy for resource management of the Eastern Slopes, including Kakwa, is created.
Kakwa is eliminated from the Procter and Gamble Forest Management Agreement.
November: McIntyre Mines Ltd. records consolidated new income of $14.9 million for first nine months of fiscal year from Mine No. 9 mine which produced more than 1.8million tons of coal. This result has been surpassed only by full year results of $21.8 million in 1973.
Kakwa is nominated as a candidate to become a provincial park.
A policy for integrated resource management is released.
Alberta Environmental Conservation Authority produces an Interim Report on the Smoky River Basin where McIntyre mines operates. According to the Report:
Citizens are concerned that strip mining in Alberta will destroy valuable recreation and wildlife areas will be destroyed.
An undated report produced by Renewable Resource Consulting Services Ltd. is commissioned by Alberta Fish and Game Association to investigate the status of McIntyre operations and assess environmental impacts of exploration activities.
Preliminary findings reveal several areas within lease area that were being unduly damaged by poor land use practices. Activities have resulted in abuses detrimental to various landscapes and watercourses in the area. The report quoted many experts including Brad Stelfox who the area as one of the better woodland caribou, grizzly bear, bighorn sheep and mountain goat regions of the province. McIntyre has not undertaken any reclamation programs on existing exploration sites. Only after pressure from Department of Lands and Forests has a restoration program been initiated.
In 1965, Stelfox observed 400-500 caribou and 250 elk between Sheep Creek and Kakwa river. McIntyre located in midst of this species rich area.
The Environmental Conservation Authority conducts public hearings in regards to resource development in the Eastern Slopes.
McIntyre Mines applies to Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) for a permit to develop and operate an open pit coal mine designated as McIntyre Porcupine No.9 mine.
The No. 9 Mine is proposed to replace coal production from the existing No. 8 open pit mine whose reserves were expected to be exhausted in
Approximately 1.3 million tons of raw coal would be mined over 6.4 years (initial operation period). Coal would be moved to processing plant where 880,000 tons of clean coal would be produced.
The ERCB identified the main mine issues as:
ERCB Decision: The Board concluded McIntyre No.9 Mine:
Exploration for coal begins within the McIntyre Mine area, including on Caw Ridge.
The Wild Kakwa Society, a group of concerned citizens based in Grand Prairie, is formed to lobby for protection of the area.
McIntyre Coal Mines Ltd. opens the Smoky River mine field to serve Japanese customers and meet demand. The field is estimated to support 353 million tonnes of coal. 11 coal seams are identified ranging in thickness from 2-3 feet to 25 feet thick.
McIntyre Porcupine Mines Ltd. is granted a mining permit for mining on Caw Ridge.
The Town of Grande Cache is developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to accommodate the 1,500 workforce of McIntyre Mines Ltd. The town has about 4000 people.
Brad Stelfox observes 400-500 caribou and 250 elk between Sheep Creek and Kakwa river.
Industry becomes interested in the Kakwa region.
The Kakwa is currently managed as a wilderness with the exception of off-road vehicle use to Kakwa Falls and along the Kakwa River to the BC border.
Caw Ridge is one of AWA’s long standing Area of Concern. AWA is seeking legal legislated protection and management similar to that of Willmore Wilderness Park which does not allow use of motorized vehicles or new industrial activity.
Caw Ridge was once part of Willmore Wilderness, however was removed from the Park in the early 1970’s to open coal mines and build the mining town of Grande Cache. AWA would like Caw Ridge to be incorporated back into Willmore Wilderness Park and be managed accordingly.
June 16, 2017
Dear Wilderness Defender, Alberta’s endangered woodland caribou desperately need your help. Please fill out a…
June 16, 2017