The Dominion Coal Blocks

The Dominion Coal Blocks

Government to sell coal property

The government of Canada plans to sell 20,000 hectares of untapped coal-rich land in the Elk Valley

The federal government has announced its plan to sell two pieces of coal-rich land in the Elk Valley.

The Dominion Coal Blocks, known locally as Lot 73 and Lot 82, are large parcels of land east of Fernie that have belonged to the Government of Canada since 1905.

But last month, Natural Resources Canada announced its plans to sell the properties.

“When I got to Ottawa in 2011 it was one of my first projects, to see if we could divest of the coal blocks because they are of no value to the federal government from the perspective of natural extraction,” said Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks. “The only way it is going to work is for companies to be able to bid on them and hopefully obtain the coal that is in them.”

The Dominion Coal Blocks were acquired by the federal government in 1905 as part of an agreement between the Canadian government and the railway companies that established the Crowsnest Pass rail route.

“The federal government has owned the land since that time and over the years they have come to realize that it does have potential value for natural resource extraction. With them owning it, they are not in the business of doing natural resource extraction,” said MP Wilks.

Lot 73 is a 2,000 hectare parcel located northeast of Fernie, next to Teck’s Coal Mountain operations.

“(Lot 73) does make sense for (Teck) because it’s between Coal Mountain and Martin Wheeler – it’s kind of plopped in between there, so they would probably have an interest in Lot 73,” explained Wilks.

Much larger, Lot 82 covers 18,000 hectares further south of Lot 73, between the Elk River and Flathead River watersheds.

Some of Lot 82 falls inside the contentious Flathead Valley. Environmental groups have long called for protection of the Flathead, saying it is important wilderness for water quality and wildlife populations.

In 2010, the B.C. government and Canadian government signed an agreement with the state of Montana and the United States government to protect the Flathead, which is adjacent to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a designated World Heritage Site.

In November 2011, the B.C. government passed the Flathead Watershed Conservation Act, which bans mining and oil and gas activity in the Flathead.

According to MP Wilks, the portion of Lot 82 that lies in the Flathead will not be part of the sale of the Coal Blocks.

“Lot 82 has been subdivided so that the part of Lot 82 that drains into the Flathead is protected and cannot be mined,” said Wilks.

But environmental groups continue to work for a national park in the Flathead.

“While details around the planned sale are not yet clear, we are encouraged that the federal government has confirmed that portions of the coal blocks overlapping with the Flathead River watershed will not be included in the sale, and that discussions with the province are under way to ensure the protection of the entire watershed from development,” said John Bergenske, Wildsight.

“The Dominion Coal Block lands in the Flathead are critical for the integrity of the watershed as a whole. Although this announcement is promising, we need these areas to be legally protected under the existing ban on mining and energy development,” said Peter Wood of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“We remain concerned that coal extraction adjacent to the Flathead will jeopardize connectivity in the longest remaining wildlife corridor on continent,” said Wendy Francis, Yukon to Yellowstone Conservation Initiative.

Now that the government of Canada has announced its plans to divest the Dominion Coal Blocks, it has set the process in motion.

“It was certainly a challenge for the federal government to deal with all of the bureaucracy that comes along with it but I’m glad to see they got through it,” said MP Wilks.

The government is engaged in consultation with the Ktunaxa, the B.C. government and other key stakeholders. Then mining companies will have the opportunity to bid on pieces of the land.

Wilks said the sale will benefit the East Kootenay, as communities will be able to collect mining tax from the operations.

“When a mining company invests in natural resource extraction, they are subject to Class 4 taxation, which allows for a municipality to tax the said company for the extraction. That is already established,” he said.

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Supporters — and shoppers — lined up waiting at the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South, waiting for the doors to open on the store's first day of operations since the pandemic forced its closure. (Photo courtesy Kate Fox)
CHCA Thrift Store re-opens in Cranbrook

After a closure of 15 months, due to the pandemic, the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South has once again opened its doors for business.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Most Read