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Alberta regulator accepts Rockies coal mine application, will call public hearing


Alberta’s energy regulator says it will accept an application and open hearings into a controversial open-pit coal mine on the southern slopes of the province’s Rocky Mountains.

In a letter dated Thursday, the Alberta Energy Regulator says it has decided the Grassy Mountain proposal should be considered an advanced project and be exempt from a ministerial order banning coal development along the province’s eastern slopes.

The letter says the regulator reached the decision after receiving a note from Energy Minister Brian Jean suggesting the project falls into the exempt category.

It says the application will go before a public hearing, although it doesn’t set out the rules for that hearing or who will be eligible to appear before it.

The Grassy Mountain steelmaking coal project near Crowsnest Pass has been before regulators for years and was denied permits by both the Alberta and federal governments in 2021 after a lengthy environmental assessment.

Proponent Benga Mining, now named Northback, lost an appeal of that decision in Alberta’s top court and the Supreme Court of Canada declined to reconsider it.

Northback has applied for exploration and water diversion licences.