July 8th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 27
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Will the Grassy Mountain Coal Project be good for the golf course?
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Riversdale Resources Mine Site - Grassy Mountain, Crowsnest pass
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
There are many great golf courses located near industrial developments, said Crowsnest Pass Golf & Country Club (CNPGCC) superintendent Waren Geitz.
Often when looking for a place to build a course, industrial sites are the only properties available. In fact the U.S. Open was held at a course a few weeks ago with a busy rail-line running right beside the tee box, fairway and green.
Riversdale Resources is proposing to locate similar infrastructure in the form of a rail load out on the community golf course for the Grassy Mountain Coal Project.
The proposed load out would be bordered by the 11th hole and would be about 18 meters below the fairway. Geitz said it would be, "Hidden by a row of trees, and most golfers wouldn't even know it's there," and would border about 150 yards of the 500 yard golf hole. It would load about five trains per week when and if the mine is producing four million tonnes per year.
Eager to submit their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to provincial and federal regulators by the fall and mindful of public feedback, Riversdale Resources is dropping the proposal to build a load out facility for the Grassy Mountain Coal Project in the valley bottom between Blairmore and Coleman in favour of locating it on the CNPGCC.
Building the facility would be mean losing no more than nine holes and the clubhouse but Riversdale executives are promising to pay for and replace any lost infrastructure.
The CNPGCC only had nine holes until 1997 when another nine professionally designed holes were added. The older holes would be lost if the mining project goes ahead as proposed but Geitz said these holes have aged to the point where they require major renovations to bring them up to the standards of newer mountain courses.
“We have several greens that are almost unplayable because of extreme slopes and poor design. Our clubhouse is also showing its age, and needs replacing. Renovating these greens and fixing design issues, and repairing other aging features could easily run into work worth millions of dollars,” said Geitz in an email interview. “In my view the offer from Riversdale, pending the development of their project to rebuild the impacted holes and clubhouse, is a windfall for the club, and an opportunity most clubs could only dream of.”
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Keith Bott, Riversdale’s community liaison, said the company has reached a point where it has to decide where to locate the load before submitting an EIA by the end of September.
The Australian junior mining company presented their decision to council during in-camera sessions where company representatives went through the other load out locations considered for the project and shared data collected via questionnaire at an April 22 open house.
“From the feedback forms, most respondents felt the golf course option was the most appropriate,” said Bott. “There was much less support for the valley bottom. Many people completed objected to it. Their feeling is the valley bottom would have a larger impact on surrounding residences and Ironstone Lookout.”
Bott said Riversdale would need to propose a single location for the Grassy Mountain load out when it submits an EIA to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and its federal counterpart the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).
In October 2014, council passed a motion opposing the then three proposed rail load out options, including the option of laying a looped track through the community golf course.
Councillor Shar Cartwright does not know how council will react to Riversdale’s newest proposal but she was against the possibility of Blairmore ending up with a wrecked landscape on both sides of Highway 3.
“Personally I have some concerns and as much as Riversdale would like to alleviate those concerns, we sure don’t want another River Run on our hands,” she said. “What happens if they start ripping up the golf course and something goes wrong? Or the markets aren’t there for them and they decide to pull out and we’re left with a torn up golf course?”
Riversdale’s chief financial officer Anthony Martin, said the CNPGCC would be pay for and replace any affected facilities if the load out is built on the course but stressed there are still a number of studies to be completed on the mining project before any decisions are made.
“Riversdale is in discussions with the board of the CNPGCC as to how those studies may proceed and how the relationship between us is governed,” said Martin in an email interview. “It is important that any arrangement, allows the club to continue to develop and strengthen its operations for the good of the community.”
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Rob Amato, CNPGCC President, said he wasn’t against Riversdale’s proposal but would want what was lost to be replaced.
“We’ve got a really good golf course, it’s in good shape and we can’t have the course go down to nine holes,” he said. “We’re one of the main draws of the Crowsnest Pass right now.”
Riversdale’s Vice President of Technical Services David Leslie said the company is conducting and funding a feasibility study on the Grassy Mountain Project, which includes the rail load out and connection to the existing Canadian Pacific rail line.
The rail connection is being designed by Calgary based Hatch Mott MacDonald while the train load out and overland clean coal conveyor is being designed by Sedgman Canada in Vancouver. The capital costs of this part of the project will be finalized once the design work is completed as part of the feasibility study.
Leslie said the added benefits of the golf course compared to the valley bottom option include locating the coal loader and conveyor out of view of the community. Additionally, during loading, the train will be farther away from residential areas resulting in a lower noise level.
“While it is not the lowest cost of the two options, it is a feasible design,” said Leslie in an email interview. “In addition, Riversdale is in a fortunate position to own large parcels of land around the golf course.”
Before Riversdale bought it, the land the golf course is built on was owned by Devon Canada and CONSOL. The agreement between Devon, CONSOL and the CNPGCC contains two conditions, which specifically allow for using golf course land to transport coal.
According to one of the conditions, “The Grantor agrees that it will not oppose any future development applications by the Grantee for development of the coal reserves on the Grantee’s properties lying north of the Devon/CONSOL Lands.”
Since late 2013, Riversdale has considered 10 potential locations for the rail load out and track. Proposals included trucking the coal to the main line, building a conveyor belt under Highway 3 or locating a facility in the Frank Industrial Park and other sites further east.
Leslie said all but the golf course and valley bottom options were dropped because of rail grade requirements, environmental impact, social impact, private landholders, community, safety, engineering feasibility, reducing the need for coal storage, capital costs, ongoing operability and other factors.
“A rail load out is a key aspect of any bulk commodity project and given the length and topography of the Crowsnest Pass, as well as the requirements of Canadian Pacific Rail, it was always going to be a challenging aspect of the Grassy Mountain project,” said Leslie.
An in-camera meeting between council, Riversdale and exectuvies from the CNPGCC has been scheduled for July 13 but in the meantime, Geitz said the club has already been in contact with golf course architect Gary Browning to develop an initial master plan. Browning’s previous projects include Stewart Creek in Canmore and Copper Point in Invermere B.C.
“This is a huge opportunity for our new and improved course to become a world class golf destination, and a major draw to the community of Crowsnest Pass,” said Geitz.
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July 8th ~ Vol. 85 No. 27
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