Skip to main content

Tag: Northback Holdings

Aerial view of mining site on Grassy Mountain

Northback awaits decision on drilling permit application

Northback Holdings Ltd., the company behind a deep drilling permit request near Blairmore, continues to wait on a decision from the Alberta Energy Regulator.

The request centres around an application for exploratory work on both privately-owned and Crown land about seven kilometres north of the community.

Chief compliance officer Grant Lindstrom, in a presentation Nov. 21 to Crowsnest Pass council, admitted the company could have done better with explaining the proposal, now in front of the regulatory agency.

The result, he believes, has left many Albertans not knowing the full story, starting with the permit itself.

“This is an exploration drilling program that’s intended to collect data. There is no mining associated with this application whatsoever,” Lindstrom explained. “It does not give us permission [to mine] in any way, shape or form.”

He added there’s been a lot of misinformation floating around, starting with the area in question, Grassy Mountain, being pristine and untouched.

 

Wedding banquet view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

“This is an area that has been mined for many decades. I think the last mining operation ceased in the mid ’70s,” he said. “It is a site that has not been reclaimed by today’s standards. It is not pristine.”

Through a PowerPoint presentation, the company also indicated that no watersheds would be impacted by any proposed drilling.

“The pit lake is not connected to any water tributaries. The water we’re taking out for the drilling program is 1,500 cubic metres,” said the CCO. “The lake holds close to 200 million cubic metres, so it’s an inconsequential volume of water.”

Some critics, Lindstrom said, have gone as far as to say mining projects, in general, will ruin the beauty of nearby mountain tops, which he said has no basis.

“In Alberta, mountaintop removal is not allowed. The mining in this area follows the coal seam. It does not take the top of the mountains.”

The company has also heard the concern about more and heavier traffic in the area, should the permit before the AER be approved.

Lindstrom said it would have no bearing on traffic.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

“The project will have a drill rig, a few water trucks and some crew pickup trucks,” he said, and he feels it will be hard to discern the difference.

As part of what can be a lengthy permit process, Northback receives each of the statements of concern with the chance to respond.

“So, as part of that process, we review those statements of concern, respond, and the AER, in turn, evaluates our response,” Lindstrom said.

While there has been both support for and opposition against the drilling, he said a large portion of the naysayers appear to be coming more from outside of the region.

“A lot of the major opposition is coming from larger urban centres in Alberta. What we’re really encouraged by, though, is the amount of local support we seem to be getting for the project.”

Just when a decision on the company’s Aug. 31 permit application will be made remains to be seen. Indications were, maybe, by the end of this year.

If approved, Lindstrom said, the company could have the project operational by February, depending on ground and weather conditions.

 

Display of fall clothing at at Emerald & Ash Clothing in Crowsnest Pass.
 

 

White car surrounded by auto parts on Pincher Creek Bumper to Bumper ad

 

 

View of Grassy Mountain coal pit on mountainside with blue sky and mountain range in the background

Application made to explore Grassy Mountain deposit

A proposed coal development project in Crowsnest Pass could show renewed signs of life if a deep-drilling permit is approved by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Known as the Grassy Mountain Coal Project, the plan first put forward in 2015 by Benga Mining Ltd. would have seen the construction and operation of an open-pit steel production mine.

Estimates, at the time, were that the facility would be able to produce up to 4.5 million tonnes of processed coal each year, but a provincial-federal joint review panel ruled in 2021 that the controversial project was “not in the public interest.”

Acting on the panel’s recommendation, the federal government then rejected the project, saying it would likely cause “significant adverse environmental effects.”

Earlier this month, Northback Holdings, formerly Benga, submitted an application to the AER for exploratory work at the site, about seven kilometres north of Blairmore.

The related permit request is for the purpose of drilling “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,” said an application letter from Northback’s senior manager of regulatory approvals, Donna Venzi.

The permit request was received by the AER on Sept. 6.

 

Tires on ad for safe winter travel with winter tires from Fountain Tire in Pincher Creek

 

Shootin’ the Breeze contacted Northback for clarification and more details of their proposal, but was told there likely wouldn’t be any comment.

A letter from Jennifer Mizuik of Calgary is the only letter of objection relating to the application on the AER website, as of the writing of this story.

“The proposed mining activity raises concerns about the possibility of contaminating local watersheds. These watersheds are vital components of the region’s ecosystem, and their contamination could have far-reaching ecological consequences,” wrote Mizuik in her statement of concern.

“The project has the potential to pose significant threats to aquatic ecosystems in the area. The health of these ecosystems is essential for the well-being of local wildlife and overall environmental balance.”

A local environmental group at the centre of the long-running debate over coal exploration, and this project in particular, is the Livingstone Landowners Group.

“We were heavily involved in the whole Grassy Mountain mine application and opposed it during the regulatory process,” said Bobbi Lambright, the group’s communications director.

In 2021, facing a large swell against the project from not only the environmental movement but a growing number of Albertans, the provincial government reinstated a 1976 coal policy protecting parts of the Rockies.

 

View of women's clothing store, at Emerald & Ash Clothing in Crowsnest Pass.

 

“Our understanding of it was that they were suspending all approvals of new coal exploration activities,” said Lambright. “So, (our) focus has been on trying to get the existing coal exploration impacts remediated.”

While agreeing with the points brought out in Mizuik’s objection letter, the group feels the issue goes much deeper.

“There’s not much of a mechanism in place right now to ensure that after a company has gone in and created roads and done drilling and really disrupted the landscape in a significant way, that it actually gets cleaned up and restored as closely as possible, to its previous state,” Lambright said.

Livingstone Landowners Group has said it plans to send its own statement of concern.

Besides Northback, Shootin’ the Breeze also reached out to the Alberta Energy Regulator’s media representative for further comment on the process, but was referred to its website and a link to the specific deep-drilling permit.

We also contacted federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who in 2021 made the decision to not approve the project, as well as Foothills MP John Barlow and Livingstone-Macleod MLA Chelsae Petrovic.

We are waiting to hear back.

 

You're in good hands – animated ad for National Newspaper Week