The alarm bells are starting to ring for local conservationists as efforts by Australian coal mining companies to build new mines in the eastern slopes pick up steam.

The mines, which have yet to be approved by the federal government, would cover an area from Highway 40 near Longview south to the Crowsnest Pass.

Local conservationist and outdoors writer, Bruce Masterman, says the Province sold off the rights cheap in hopes of stimulating the economy and adding jobs, but he says it may be short lived.

"Some people in the Crowsnest Pass area say it's going to be great for the economy. It's only going to be great for a couple of years. And I don't even know how great it's going to be. But it's certainly a short term gain for a very long term pain as far as the resources go."

Masterman says it would be an environmental disaster for the area.

"It basically is going to destroy or threaten the future of the Livingstone, the Oldman, the Crowsnest (Rivers). They're all water sources for the Oldman River which provides water for downstream municipalities including Fort Macleod and Lethbridge. It's just a travesty in my opinion."

Masterman says if the mines are approved it'll fundamentally change the landscape of the area.

"Where you're removing mountain tops, you're not reclaiming mountain tops. No matter what any government or company says, you are not putting the top back on a mountain. You are not reclaiming it to the way it was and to say you are is just being untrue."

The Province rescinded coal policy protections put in place by the government of Peter Lougheed in 1975 to allow the mining.


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Final arguments for or against the mines must be in the hands of a joint federal/provincial panel by Friday, January 8, with a decision expected this summer.

The Alberta Party has also launched an e-petition aimed at stopping the development.


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