Dozens gathered to protest against coal mining in the Rocky Mountains at the monolith off Highway 22 in southern Alberta on Sunday afternoon.
Elizabeth Williams is the artist behind the monolith that marked the gathering place.
“I never anticipated when we got this location for the installation that it would become a destination,” she said. “But it has.”
The installation was her attempt to get Albertans to pay attention to potential mining along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the reallocation of water rights in the area.
“This is what we need. A beautiful, uplifting curiosity that will draw attention.”
The protest comes after the Alberta government quietly rescinded its coal policy in 2020 and then reinstated it this year following public outcry.
The original policy was put in place in 1976 under Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservatives and took two years to develop. It blocked surface coal mines in about 1.4 million hectares of wilderness.
When the government reinstated the policy, it put protections back in place for Category 2 lands, including most of the eastern slopes in the Rockies.
Public consultations are set to begin at the end of March for an updated coal policy. But some people are worried about the process.
“Nobody believes this is going to be a fair and open consultation,” said Dave Eaton at the protest Sunday. “But I can’t sit by and watch this happen without saying something.”
Minister of Energy Sonya Savage said the coal consultation process is being designed to hear all of the perspectives on future coal development from Albertans, including First Nations. Plans are being finalized and will be shared before the start of consultations on March 29.
“Albertans are upset, so we’re starting to show up at places to stand up for what we value,” said Williams.
Some of the protestors wore face masks that read “no coal.”
For Eaton, he’s worried about what the future holds.
“I don’t think that I’ll live long enough to see the full legacy of what these coal mines are going to leave us,” he said. “But my children or grandchildren will. And they’ll all be paying for the damage that’s done through the next two or three generations.”