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Good News From Down Under?

Aussie coal company cancelled its coal mine but proposed anew renewable energy complex for the site

Montem Resources, an Australian coal company, recently announced it was scrapping its Tent Mountain Mine Redevelopment Project. The project sought to restart and expand mining operations at the Tent Mountain Mine.

Instead, Montem’s CEO Peter Doyle said his company will focus on building a renewable hydro project at the Tent Mountain site.

The site is located 16 kilometres west of Coleman. Coal was first discovered at Tent Mountain in the early 1900s, with the first mine opening in 1948 and closing in 1983.

The site contains an estimated 32 million tons of mineable reserves, which refers to the mineable part of a mineral resource. Montem’s project would have pumped out 4,925 tons of coal daily over 14 years.

In a letter, Montem Resources asked the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to end its project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA). An EIA is the government process set up to consider the potential environmental impacts of a project before it gets approved. For example, an EIA may reject a highway expansion if it significantly disrupts wildlife.

an aerial image of tent mountain mine with labels explaining what each part of the mine will function as for the renewable energy project
An image of Tent Mountain and the proposed renewable energy complex (full size) | Montem Resources

After the Canadian government cancelled the Grassy Mountain coal project in 2021, Montem shifted its gears towards hydro and wind energy.

The company announced the new renewable proposal in October 2021. However, the company had been sitting on the idea since 2009.

“…given what happened to Grassy Mountain…we’re spending our money on the pump hydro and wind hydro; that’s where our next money investment is going,” commented Doyle.

The proposed renewable energy complex will have three components. A 320 megawatt (MW) pumped hydro energy storage, a 100 MW green hydrogen electrolyzer, and a 100 MW wind farm.

According to Montem, the complex has the potential to generate 320 MW of electricity over eight hours. The company claims this is enough to power 200,000 homes through the night.

“Tent Mountain (has) a very large capacity to store energy; we need to produce the energy for that storage. And then we can turn that energy into usable fuel, not just electricity,” continued Doyle.

The renewable energy complex is still just a proposal. Montem still has plenty of hoops to jump through to bring this project to life. This includes securing a water source, connecting to the power grid, reservoir drilling, regulatory approval, and a feasibility study.

According to Doyle, a final decision on whether the company should proceed with the renewable energy complex is expected in 2025.

While a renewable energy complex is better than a coal mine, some concerns remain. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) claims the project could have environmental risks.

“Pumped hydro storage generally takes more electricity from the grid than it adds, and we’re concerned about siting industry in alpine areas, which are particularly sensitive to disturbance and difficult to reclaim…,” Devon Earl with the Alberta Wilderness Association told Global News.

Will Montem’s proposed renewable energy complex do more harm than good?

It will be a while before we can definitively answer that question.

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