In a desperate economic moment, Alberta is abruptly reshaping a decades-old balance in the Rockies and Foothills, chasing opportunity in the volatile market of coal exports, at the risk of the very land that defines the province and its people.
Stand atop Mount Erickson in southeastern British Columbia and it feels like you can see forever.
Look north, and peer along the jagged ridgelines of the High Rock Range, which stretch to the horizon. To the south, snow-capped peaks in the Crowsnest Range cut into the blue sky, rising above dense green forests. Across the valley to the west, row upon row of sawtoothed summits fade into the distance, melding into mesmerizing array.
And then you look down. Down the austere slope, in the valley below, is a massive, open-pit coal mine.
The word “mine” evokes images of soot-smeared workers in underground tunnels, but this is actually a mountain in the process of being deconstructed. A geologic wound. Its slopes are blackened and tiered, abuzz with enormous yellow trucks that look tiny from this distance, kicking up grey plumes of dust as they haul the pulverized mountain away, load by load.
This is one of five coal mines owned by Teck Resources in B.C’s Elk Valley. Together, these operations produce the bulk of the mining revenue in a province that has made coal its top export.
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