October 21st, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 41
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Riversdale shares expected impacts of Grassy Mountain Coal Project
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Coal seam in Grassy Mountain, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
A social impact assessment produced on behalf of Riversdale Resources is promising growth for the community if the Grassy Mountain Coal Project moves forward and stagnation and decline if it doesn’t.

On Oct. 14, in a presentation to the Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce at Stone’s Throw Cafe, Riversdale executives presented the assessment that outlines some of the expected effects of the Grassy Mountain Coal Project.

The assessment was produced by Nichols Applied Management, a consulting firm that offers services in the fields of economic and financial analysis, for the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment and foresees a community full of workers and their families by 2021, if the mine goes ahead.

Without the mine, the report foresees a town lacking a commercial and industrial tax base and a declining population.

Population effects

The report says 660 mine workers and their families are expected to move to the Pass by 2021 if the project goes ahead by which point the population could be well over 5,700.

The Pass’ population has been declining steadily since the 1970s and without the mine, is expected to drop from its current figure of about 5,500 to approximately 5,040 residents by 2021.

There will also be an expected influx of 1,800 temporary workers to build the mine. About 60 workers would be onsite for mine construction through 2017. That number will be increased through 2018 until it peaks at 180 workers before ramping down to zero in 2019 when construction will cease.

Once operational, the mine will employ about 385 people, primarily heavy equipment operators, millwrights and process operators.
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Through the creation of direct, indirect and induced employment, the report claims that the project will create about 1,050 jobs. Of those, the report states 640 will be created in Alberta and 410 in B.C. An estimated 245 jobs will be created in the Crowsnest Pass area and 155 in Sparwood

Housing effects

The people migrating to the Pass will need approximately 165 additional houses by 2021. The report foresees two extra houses would be needed in the Municipal District of Ranchland and 109 in Sparwood.

There will be houses available in 2021 as the population decline outpaces the housing decline, says the report. However, though many of the Pass’ available houses are either too expensive or are in disrepair to house the workers.

Infrastructure effects

Without the mine, the community’s existing infrastructure will be sufficient to service the population but if the project goes forward, the demands will exceed the planned infrastructure.

Already, the Frank Waste Water Treatment Plant exceeds capacity during the spring freshet and the municipality’s water allotment is currently exceeded.

The community will need another two RCMP officers, 10 firefighters, three ambulance service staff, five teachers and one more physician to serve the community if the mine goes forward.

The report says the increased population will mean more traffic and an increase in the chance of road or industrial accidents.

Income effects

During construction, Riversdale expects to spend nearly $4 million in the region primarily in the form of equipment purchases from local suppliers and nearly $25 million annually in the region when the mine is operating, primarily in wages.
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The company will pay an estimated $490,000 in municipal property taxes this year.

Over the course of the expected 25 years the mine will be operating, Riversdale is expected to pay $195 million in royalties. It would also pay $140 million in provincial taxes and $210 million in federal taxes.

Environmental issues

The mine would drastically effect the local environment. Coal wash plants need considerable amounts of water and Riversdale is still in discussion with the municipality regarding surface water leases.

Selenium contamination is a huge problem for Elk Valley mines. Samples from recently dug core holes are being analyzed to see if there could be similar problems for Grassy Mountain.

The proposed mine could affect crucial habitat for native cutthroat trout through erosion and sedimentation of streams. There are a number of potential risks to plant species such as white pine and native fescue grassland. The area is also home to grizzly bears, mountain goats, cougars and other wildlife.

Studies on coal dust and noise from the mine have yet to be done and the project would affect cultural, archeological and historical sites including an ancient First Nations campsite and historic buildings from the long abandoned Greenhill Mine.

Timeline to production

Riversdale has completed a feasibility study and is expected to submit an environmental impact assessment by the end of the month, which will be reviewed by both federal and provincial regulators.

The mine would produce about 4 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per year for overseas steel manufacturing over a 25-year mine life. The report said the first shipment of Grassy Mountain coal will be delivered by the first quarter of 2019.
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October 21st ~ Vol. 85 No. 41
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