February 3rd, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 5
Riversdale update, more information required for process
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Photo:By Keith McClary (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Grassy Mountain coal seam.
Pass Herald Reporter
The provincial energy regulator has suspended its review of Riversdale Resources’ Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Grassy Mountain Coal Project citing deficiencies.

Benga Mining, a Riversdale Resources subsidiary, can re-submit their application once they address a list of deficiencies outlined by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in a seven-page document.

“The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has determined that the Benga’s Grassy Mountain Coal Project environmental impact assessment (EIA) report has major deficiencies and is not complete,” said the document. “Benga may resubmit the EIA once the deficiencies have been addressed.”

The document, now posted online, asks Riversdale to submit more information concerning conservation and reclamation, air quality, water management, socio-economic effects, fisheries, wildlife and other subjects.

Regarding water management, the AER wants more information about selenium concentrations at the proposed mine site. Selenium is a naturally occurring mineral found in waste rock that can be toxic in large amounts.

The uncertainty regarding selenium concentrations and how it would be controlled, both during operations and post closure, had not been adequately discussed, said the AER.

“Scientific justification has not been provided to support Benga’s assumption that selenium levels are “about half” that of similar coals in the region,” said the document. “Available literature indicates potential selenium attenuation efficiencies by biochemical reduction would typically be in the range of 85 per cent to 95 per cent. Benga’s assumption of a 99 per cent reduction efficiency has not been scientifically referenced.”

The document also said Riversdale needs to submit more information regarding their proposal to locate the coal load out facility on the community golf course because some of the course is Crown land.
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“The rail loading terminal is proposed to overlap the golf course. Some of the lands the golf course is using are Crown lands,” said the document. “While Benga presented a picture that they would simply “swap” lands they presently own with the golf course in order to re-locate 9 holes, they have not addressed the fact that some of those lands are Crown lands at present.”

The AER is also asking Riversdale submit a fully integrated project application package that includes the completed EIA and applications under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the Public Lands Act, the Water Act, and the Coal Conservation Act.

In November 2015, Riversdale filed applications with the provincial and federal governments to move the Grassy Mountain Coal Project to the development stage.

The project is only one of its kind to undergo a joint federal and provincial review process by both the AER and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) since changes were made to both the AER’s structure and function and to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 2012. The process is anticipated to take anywhere from 15 to 18 months. Riversdale’s two applications submitted to the CEAA in conjunction with their EIA are still under review.

At a meeting on Jan. 27, Cal Clark, Riversdale’s manager of sustainable development, addressed council and a few citizens regarding the energy regulator’s decision.

He downplayed the language contained in the AER’s statement, saying it was ‘driven by process’ and that mosts of the identified deficiencies are not major.

“[The AER] did a preliminary review of the application,” he said. “They felt there were some information requirements that are missing for them to adequately make a decision, so they’ve asked us to resubmit the EIA or at least complete the information that they’re looking for.”
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Clark said he knew there were some gaps in the EIA but he had yet to have, “discussions with [the AER’s] technical people to discuss the deficiencies identified and to clarify the AER’s infomation requirement.”
Councillor Bill Kovach asked whether this would affect the timeline for the project.

Clark responded that that would, “depend on us and how quickly we can turn things around and submit the information they’re looking for but that it is not expected to affect the timeline.

Letters of concern or support still welcome.

The deadline to submit a statement of concern or a letter of support regarding the Grassy Mountain Coal Project was January 15, but Clark said “statements are welcome at any time up until the decision is made.”

The project received 29 statements of concern and 24 letters of support, which Clark said was “fairly balanced.”

Both statements of concern and support will be considered as part of the decision on the current applications. The AER will post, for public notice, any and all additional project applications under EPEA, the Water Act, the PLA, and the CCA once received.

Councillor Marlene Anctil asked what people were writing in their statements and letters.

“The major issues so far that have been raised are related to fish, water and water quality in particular, both ground water and surface water,” said Clark. “Dust, noise and then always the general impact, those are the project specific concerns.”

Clark also said he’s also received some statements of concern from people who have a broad dislike for the coal industry.
February 3rd ~ Vol. 85 No. 5
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