It’s quiet in Coleman, Alta., a historic coal town located within the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, a cluster of five communities along Highway 3 in southwestern Alberta. The downtown brims with symbols of this town’s past. Many historic buildings are boarded up, their futures plainly uncertain. The ruins of the town’s coal plant and coke ovens are still visible a short walk away.
The residents here are used to seeing reporters, given how much coal has been in the news over the past two years, but many are done talking about it. Business owners hesitate to take a public side lest they alienate potential customers.
“It’s not worth getting into,” says one woman, who declines to give her name. In 2020, the province moved to scrap a 1976 policy that limited coal development in the region. That temporarily lit a fire under the coal industry and the dream of more work in this community.
There’s clear support among many for the industry: affixed to a storefront is a sign that declares, “This is a coal community.” “I support the mines,” reads another. Since then, in the wake of demonstrations on the steps of the Alberta Legislature and protest songs from country stars like Corb Lund, the rules have been put back in place, the coal projects put on pause.
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