It’s an energy source that helped open the west. But coal mining has left scars on the Alberta landscape: abandoned mines and open pits where energy producers are now prospecting something new.
“Sites like this don’t really exist in a lot of places,” said Blain van Melle, the executive vice president of Alberta business at TransAlta. “This is really unique. We like to refer to it as a unicorn.” Metallurgical coal was discovered at Tent Mountain in the early 1900s. Small-scale mining made way for the first open cut pit in 1948.
But operations were suspended in 1983 and coal policy changes in 2021 led owners to rethink the mountain’s potential. Enter TransAlta. The company was once Canada’s premier provider of coal-fired electricity. Now, it’s partnering with Australian company Montem Resources in a project to turn Tent Mountain’s historic mining operation — and its water-filled mining pits — into a new stream of renewable energy.
“The sheer volume of potential storage that is sitting in that water and the cost to run the pumped hydro facility compared to other facilities, the capital outlay that will need to go into the project up front… is really unique,” said van Melle.
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