Alberta's New Democrat Opposition is asking the provincial government to step in and quash applications for coal mining exploration in the Rocky Mountains.

In a letter to Energy Minister Brian Jean, environment critic Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse says he should tell the Alberta Energy Regulator to reject applications from Northback Holdings for drilling and water use.

Last week, Northback applied to the regulator to revive the Grassy Mountain project, which was denied by a joint federal-provincial review panel in 2021.

The regulator has said it is considering whether documents submitted under that version of the proposal apply to the current application, which would make it an "advanced project."

It would then be exempt from the government's current moratorium on coal development, which was issued after a slew of mine proposals caused a public outcry.

But Calahoo Stonehouse says Albertans have made their views clear over open-pit mines in the Rockies. She points to the review panel's finding that the project is not in the overall public interest.

She said Jean must make a clear statement saying such mines will not be approved.

"Why would we say yes to exploratory (permits) when we're saying no to mining?" she asked.

"How much bureaucratic space and time and resources are we going to spend on saying 'no' repeatedly?"

#Alberta NDP asks minister to quash application for Rocky Mountain coal mine. #ABPoli #CoalMining #RockyMountains #NorthbackHoldings #GrassyMountain

She added that reopening the divisive debate on the Grassy Mountain steelmaking coal project just puts more stress on the communities involved, which have both opponents and strong supporters of the mine. The ministerial order that imposed the moratorium gives Jean the power to tell the regulator to reject the applications and end the process.

In a statement, Jean suggested that the decision is in the regulator's hands.

"The (regulator) can accept and process applications for matters related to coal mining if they are considered to be an 'advanced coal project' under ... the ministerial order. Receiving an application is not a guarantee that the application will be approved."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.

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