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.
“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.
“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.
Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze