First Nations in Alberta taking government’s decision to shut down Grassy Mountain coal project to court  

Joint federal-provincial panel ruled in June that coal project not in the public interest

Two First Nations in Southern Alberta want to appeal a review board’s decision to reject a proposed coal mine.

In June, a joint federal and provincial review panel that included the Alberta Energy Regulator, decided the Grassy Mountain mine project was not in the public’s best interest.

In its 680 page report released in June, the panel questioned the ability of Benga Mining, owned by Riversdale Resources, to control the release of selenium from its proposed Grassy Mountain mine.

“In some cases the claimed effectiveness of the proposed measures was overly optimistic and not supported by the evidence,” the report says. “As a result, we are not confident about the technical and economic feasibility of some proposed mitigation measures,” the panel wrote.

“We find that this was particularly true for effects on surface water quality, westslope cutthroat trout (and fish and fish habitat more generally), and vegetation.”

The Stoney Nakoda Nation, west of Calgary, Alta, has filed a request with the Alberta Court of Appeal which states, “The (panel) did not properly assess the impact that rejecting the project would have on Stoney Nakoda Aboriginal and treaty rights and economic interests.”

Benga Mining and Piikani Nation, nearly 40 km from the proposed site, have also filed an appeal.

In a release to media, Chief Stanley Grier of Piikani stated, “The Piikani Nation supports the project and believes that it is an example of how mining can be done in a way that benefits surrounding communities.”

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For months, many Albertans have protested the project in support of Blackfoot-based groups like Niitsitapi Water Protectors and Mountain Child Valley Society (MCVS), which were created to protect the eastern slope of the Rockies.

Adam North Peigan of MCVS said Piikani leadership did not give notice before filing the appeal.

“Up until this day there is still no meaningful consultation with the grassroots Piikani members in our community from our leadership,” North Peigan told APTN.  

The mine is proposed to create hundreds of jobs for nearby communities and produce nearly 93 million tonnes of coal over 23 years.

North Peigan said the environmental impacts outweigh the benefits.

“We’re continuing our aggressive lobbying efforts to continue to voice our concerns and let our leadership know that we’re not going to be silenced,” he said.

“It’s our responsibility to protect those traditional gathering and hunting and places where we used to pick our medicinal herbs; we have a responsibility to protect that contrary to what leadership is doing.”

APTN News has reached out to both Stoney and Piikani leadership; no one was available for comment.

All three applications are expected to be heard in September 2021.

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