Last week, a joint review panel deemed the Grassy Mountain coal project “not in the public interest,” but the denial hasn’t led to other coal companies giving up on their proposed projects along Alberta’s eastern slopes.
On Wednesday, Australia-based Atrum Coal presented to members of Lethbridge city council — sitting as the Economic Standing Policy Committee (SPC) — pitching the Elan Project, north of Coleman, Alta.
According to the project website, the Elan – Isolation South project proposes a surface mine site covering about 2,000 acres.
Atrum chief development officer Tony Mauro was the main presenter on Wednesday. He said the project would bring hundreds of ongoing jobs and employment opportunities, with royalties — structured “the same” as for the oilsands — providing a meaningful contribution to the province of Alberta for more than 20 years.
Members of council had plenty of questions for Mauro, spanning a range of coal-related topics.
“Obviously you’re here to inform us as a committee of council,” said Coun. Ryan Parker.
“Is that your primary objective today, to educate us? And are you doing this with other municipalities? Like, are you — for lack of a better term — are you on a road show? Trying to get your story out there?”
Mauro said Atrum has presented to a number of municipalities across Alberta. He said their approach came out of hearing that municipalities had expressed to the premier that they had questions.
“We’re not here to advocate for coal policy, we’re not here to advocate for a project,” Mauro said.
“We’re just here to say that we take the environment very seriously. All of our plans have been geared around — for example — end-use land planning. We’re looking at the most recent technologies available to manage water quality.”
Water quality was a major topic of discussion on Wednesday, with Mayor Chris Spearman pointing out that Lethbridge is one of the country’s main food corridors; with an economy based on agriculture that relies on irrigation and the Oldman River.
Spearman asked about contamination from selenium, with Mauro responding that while Atrum would prioritize maintaining water quality, he didn’t have have exact details.
“We don’t have a whole lot of data for you, we’re still in the process of collecting,” Mauro said. “Our information, with respect to the experts, we do not have a specific lab, but we have retained experts who do have specific labs that are designed specifically around selenium-capturing treatment.”
Atrum’s mining is focused on coal for steel rather than for thermal energy purposes, with Mauro pointing out that the demand for steel around the world isn’t going away.
“Our view, respectfully, is if it could be mined responsibly then why not right here in Alberta, for the benefit of Albertans?” he said.
“We recognize that each of the proposed projects has different environmental factors to be considered, and each project has its own unique benefits and challenges. We’re really just looking for the opportunity to put the best possible submission in front of our stakeholders and regulators.”
The Economic SPC accepted the presentation as information, with no immediate plans for the two sides to discuss the project further.