Coal mines can be environmentally safe and can become useful, enjoyable landscapes when the seam runs out, say scientists working with industry.
But they admit that there are risks and costs, and urge communities and miners to work together from the start to understand and minimize them.
“There’s a lot of mitigative measures you can take when you’re designing a mine,” said Guy Gilron, a biologist and toxicologist who has worked on many mine projects, including some proposed for Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.
Gord McKenna, a Calgary-based geotechnical engineer, said mines can become attractive and useful landscapes — as long as people don’t expect them to look the same as they did before.
“We can make landscapes that are pretty good,” he said. “It’s not always put back to the same land uses. [But] if we don’t overpromise, I think mines can meet what they set out to do.”