Residents near Tofield raise funds to fight proposed coal mine
Dozens of residents who oppose a coal gasification project being proposed by Sherritt International and Epcor gathered at an outdoor festival south of Tofield on Saturday to raise awareness and money to fight the project.
"We're saying no we don't want this project," said Bill Sears whose 1,000 acre farm is threatened by the project. "We don't want to see our yards destroyed, our farms destroyed, our homes destroyed."
The Sears family has farmed the same plot of land for generations and they say the thought of it turning into an open-pit coal mine is heart-wrenching.
The project is planned for a massive plot of land south of Tofield. It would take up 312 square kilometres of farmland, roughly half the size of Edmonton.
"It just boggles my mind that the government of Alberta and Sherritt would even consider tearing up that much farm land," said area resident May Korobko.
Critics of the project recently put up a billboard near Tofield which opposes the project. They hope money raised from the festival will help keep area residents informed about the project.
"A majority of the money will be for what we term as 'keeping the public up to speed' on things we feel they should know about," said critic Brian Schultz.
However, some people believe the project would revitalize the area with new jobs.
"I think the coal mine around here might do a lot of good," said Owen Jones.
Other's, like Bill Sears' family who've built a history on their land, see it as a short term gain that has the potential to create problems for the future.
"All of a sudden our future here is in question and that puts real stresses on us, especially for the next generation," said Sears.
If the project goes ahead, the coal from the mine would go to produce synthetic gas to power tar sands upgraders. Sherritt and Epcor say the land would be reclaimed after the 40-year project is complete.
If the project goes ahead landowners will be forced to sell their land outright or be relocated while the mining takes place.
With files from Scott Roberts