Calgary coal mining firm disputes land use plan – by Amanda Stephenson (Calgary Herald – October 29, 2013)

A Calgary company wanting to bring coal mining back to the Alberta side of the Crowsnest Pass is raising serious concerns about a new draft land use plan for southern Alberta.

Altitude Resources Inc. said it will express its fears about the proposed South Saskatchewan Regional Plan at upcoming public consultation sessions. Altitude chair Gene Wusaty said if left as is, the plan could clip the wings of southern Alberta’s fledgling coking coal industry and serve as a roadblock to economic development.

“The way we look at it, there’s no real balance (in the plan) for economic activity,” Wusaty said. “We’re going to have, I think, one kick at the cat here to be heard. Because if it passes, the chances of us going back and getting it changed are going to be pretty slim.”

The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan – unveiled by the Alberta government earlier this month – is meant to guide future decisions on development, recreation and conservation in the province. Touted as a balance between development and conservation, the plan proposes 32 new and expanded recreation and conservation areas, with nine new or expanded provincial parks and three new or expanded recreation areas.

The majority of the proposed new protected areas lie along the eastern slopes of the Rockies. The problem, Wusaty said, is that the eastern Rockies are the only place in Alberta where coking coal – coal used in the production of steel – can be found.

“A good chunk of these lands have already been removed from any possibility for development over the last several decades, as wilderness areas have been established and provincial parks have been established,” Wusaty said.

“From that point of view, we’re concerned. Every time (the government) comes out with a new plan like this, it diminishes the opportunity for us.”

There hasn’t been a working coal mine on the Alberta side of the Crowsnest Pass for decades. But growing Asian demand for steel is driving up prices for coking coal, and companies are paying attention. This year alone, two companies – Altitude and Australia’s Riversdale Resources – have announced plans to commence exploratory drilling in the area.

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