The sheer lunacy of endorsing coal mining in the Rockies of all places
ABOVE: Award-winning musician Corb Lund, an 8th generation Albertan with roots on the family ranch, is fighting Premier Kenney’s plan to allow coal mining in the Canadian Rockies. (PHOTO: Glean Productions)
There is no more glorious drive in this vast country than that which heads west from Calgary along Highway 1. I’ve done it many, many times over the years and it never fails to make my heart sing to leave the rambling suburbs behind and enter the Foothills with the white-capped Canadian Rockies looming on the horizon. It has long been the landscape of great songs.
Song is being deployed to rally opposition against metallurgical coal mining in the Rockies, as approved by the ever-popular Jason Kenney and the United (in name only) Conservative Party of Alberta, which ended a 1976 moratorium issued by the Lockheed government. Leading the tuneful charge is the multi-award and Juno-winning Corb Lund. Recorded together with some of Alberta’s finest, including Brett Kissel, Terri Clark, Paul Brandt, Armond Duck Chief, Nice Horse, and Sherryl Sewepagaham, Lund’s new recording of “This is My Prairie,” a song from earlier in his career, is offered as an anthem in solidarity with “ranchers, urban and rural Albertans and First Nations communities in strongly opposing coal mining in the heart of our Rocky Mountains.”
Metallurgical coal used in steel production is slated for extraction on the eastern slopes, despite there being an international glut on the market and not much spin-off job creation. It poses a huge threat to a pristine watershed and the livelihoods of ranchers. “When this was announced, there was a big public outcry from across the spectrum in Alberta,” Lund says, “and the Premier said it was just noise from a bunch of urban busybodies, but I’ve talked to cattle ranchers who want it stopped because their water supply will be directly threatened by this.”
Notwithstanding the massive floods of 2013, Alberta is not exactly swimming in water, and with the provincial government’s own projections putting the population at 6.3 million by 2046, fresh water will become an ever-more valuable natural resource for both agriculture and cities. “This is right in my backyard and coal mining takes a lot of water, so between contamination and the water it’s going to use, that’s a real measurable threat,” Lund says.
ABOVE: Corb Lund with his mum Patty.
Polls indicate opposition to the plan stands as high as 80 per cent and crosses all political and demographic lines. Lund puts that in perspective. “A friend of mine who works in polling says you never see that kind of number unless you’re talking about Gretzky or beer,” which raises the question about why the government is proceeding, especially at a time when the Premier’s numbers are the lowest in the country. Admitting error and reversing course rather than political smoke and mirrors would be a big win-win all around, but Lund fears that won’t happen. “Their instincts appear to me to be, instead of fixing it, they think ‘how do we pretend that we fixed it and fool people.’ It’s like a playbook from 1992 before Twitter, but people are catching on!”
Lund himself is an 8th generation Albertan with roots on the family ranch. For him, the fight with Kenney is both personal and has broader implications. “The Rockies are one of the last wild spaces in Canada, so there are all kinds of reasons to not mess it up,” Lund points out. “They say they can reclaim it after mining but once you blow the top off a mountain to get to the coal there’s no way you can put it back the way it was. I want foreign companies to go away and I want the Alberta government to admit they’ve made a mistake and put a strong coal policy in place that prohibits coal mining in the Rockies. Full stop!”
The new version of “This is My Prairie” was released this week. It’s a beautiful, prescient ballad for a magnificent landscape that we must all band together and save. Be sure to watch it on YouTube and share it abundantly:
Click on the following link to sign the petition against coal mining in our Canadian Rockies: Tell Premier Kenney and Minister Savage: Protect our pristine Rocky Mountains | Leadnow.ca