On the block?

Earlier, we reported on Wasabi Energy Ltd. and Western Canadian Coal Corp.'s plans to mine the Lillyburt coal property. But that's not the only emerging environmental concern in the Flathead River Valley. The federally-owned, 50,000 acre Dominion Coal Block lands include both coal deposits and 15,000 acres of valley floor. Those deposits, to-date, remain untouched. But, last year, the British Columbia Liberals announced plans to "work with (Ottawa) to open up" the block to mining exploration - a longstanding ambition for British Columbia governments past. Those ambitions have been the cause of much handwringing in Montana governor Brian Schweitzer's office, as well as amongst trans-boundary treehuggers. The reason: concerns exploration and future development in the block could pollute the watershed and nearby Glacier National Park, as well as ruining valuable wilderness habitats. But, in the late winter/early spring of 2005, Ottawa threw a monkeywrench into the Campbell administration's plans.

According to those familiar with the file, the Martin government passed a cabinet order making the transfer of the block conditional on the province's agreement to complete a federally-funded feasability study into the expansion of Waterton Lakes National Park. Provincial and federal government flacks refused to confirm the existence of that cabinet order - which reportedly didn't receive a favourable reception from the West Annex. But, now that the Conservatives are in charge, that feasability study requirement may no longer be on the negotiating table. Which means the block could be handed over to the Campbell administration sooner rather than later.

1 Comment

The letter from Gov Schweitzer to Sec Rice makes for interesting reading, in particular his description of the BC Govt's reponse as "gracious" but not cooperative in any concrete sense. It's pretty hard for BC and Canada to complain too loudly about US bullying on trade issues like softwood or steel, when you have Canadian environmental recklessness in this case, and in the case of Cominco's Trail smelter.

It's worth noting that BC's obstinancy in the area of coal and coal bed methane doesn't start or stop at the political and corporate levels. It reaches down into the provincial mines department bureaucracy and includes professionals and officials who are advocates of these mineral developments and are openly dismissive of any suggestion of environmental damages, such as to water resources. Graduates of the University of Calgary are making their presence felt in Victoria's energy and mines bureaucracy, just as they are in Ottawa's new Conservative Govt.

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