There could be new coal activity on the Grassy Mountain deposit near the Crowsnest Pass as soon as this year.
Northback Holdings Corporation is planning to conduct a coal exploration program and has submitted a request for a deep drilling permit to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).
The company, formerly known as Benga Mining Limited, says it’s proposing to drill a total of 46 boreholes during the 2023 and 2024 exploration seasons.
“The purpose of the (deep drilling permit) is to drill to depths deeper than 150 metres and no deeper than 550 metres on a combination of crown land and Northback’s privately owned land commencing on Oct. 15, 2023,” says a letter to the AER signed by Donna Venzi, senior manager of regulatory approvals for Northback.
The application says the drilling will let the company better understand the full depth of the Grassy Mountain deposit, obtain raw coal and acid rock drainage samples and model the coal seams.
Global News contacted Northback and Australian parent company Hancock Prospecting for comment, but did not receive a response.
In June 2021, a joint federal-provincial review panel denied Benga’s permits needed to resume mining for steelmaking coal at Grassy Mountain.
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The panel said likely environmental effects on fish and water quality would outweigh the project’s economic impacts.
The company, along with Stoney Nakoda and Piikani First Nations, requested an appeal of the decision, but both the Alberta Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear it.
A ministerial order does remain in place restricting coal exploration and development in the Eastern Slopes, but when asked how that order impacts Northback’s permit request, Energy and Minerals Minister Brian Jean’s office provided Global News with a statement reading in part, “the government does not speak to specific projects.”
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The AER confirmed it registered Northback’s application on Sept. 6 and it is under review.
According to the AER’s website, processing can take anywhere from three weeks to more than a year.
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