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Country star Corb Lund criticizes Alberta minister over coal application support

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An Alberta country music star is criticizing the province's energy minister for advising its energy regulator to accept initial applications for a coal mine project in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta.

Corb Lund, who says he is non-partisan, said that after meeting with Energy Minister Brian Jean, he doesn't believe the minister knows enough about the issue. 

"I met with Brian Jean to discuss the coal issue a couple of months ago. And I was alarmed by how little he knew," Lund said in an email to The Canadian Press. 

"I knew more about the coal issue than he did, and I'm just a guitar player, not the minister of energy. It's chilling to me that ill-informed politicians are making decisions about our water."

Jean's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, the Alberta Energy Regulator said the Grassy Mountain steelmaking coal proposal near Crowsnest Pass should be considered an advanced project and be exempt from a ministerial order banning coal development in the mountains.

The regulator reached the decision after receiving a letter from Jean in support of considering the applications. 

The regulator says it will hold public hearings on mine proponent Northback's request for exploration permits and a water licence. 

Lund, a longtime vocal opponent of coal mining in those areas, says review panels and governments have already turned down the project and polling has shown the public doesn't support it.  

"How many times do Albertans have to say no to these foreign coal companies?" he wrote. 

"The joint review panel already firmly told them no, at both the provincial and federal levels — and their appeal was denied after that. Public polling has shown over and over that the vast majority of Albertans don't want these coal mines." 

He said southern Alberta can't support another significant water user. 

"We're dealing with crippling drought."

"I don't know who is pushing these things so hard when the public doesn't want them," Lund said. "It's unbelievable to me. It's asinine -- like the Oldman River is in a crisis right now. And coal mines are going to contaminate the water, they're gonna use a lot of it and it's unbelievable to me. I'm speechless."

While the community of Crowsnest Pass strongly supports the mine, environmental groups have said they're considering a court challenge of the decision to exempt the applications from a ministerial order banning coal development along the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

Lund lives in the southern Alberta community of Taber. 

He has released 11 albums and tours regularly in Canada, the United States and Australia. He has been nominated for five Juno Awards, winning once, and has received several nods for Group of the Year from the Canadian Country Music Association. 

On Feb. 20, Lund performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2024.

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