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Turning SaskPower’s Sow’s Ear into a Silk Purse

Estevan’s Reclaimed Coal Mine Land is Economic Development Gold

Recently SaskPower turned down the opportunity to locate its 100MW Estevan solar project on reclaimed mine lands, citing cost issues, opting instead to site the installation on six quarter sections of farm land. Contradicting the SaskPower approach is a March 2023 report funded by The Nature Conservancy called the Coal Infrastructure Reuse Report (see link below) that provided the state of Wyoming with an inventory of coal industry assets, examples of past economic development projects that repurposed coal infrastructure and discussed the public policy changes needed to ensure more successful projects in the future. While SaskPower refuses to touch reclaimed coal mine land, experience from elsewhere suggests that Estevan could be using that land as a catalyst for economic development. Some examples: Renewable energy development: If the land is located in an area with high wind or solar potential, (paying attention SaskPower?) it may be suitable for the development of renewable energy projects, such as wind or solar farms. This can provide a source of clean energy and create jobs in the area. Example: The Red Hills Renewable Energy Park in Florida, is a 120-megawatt wind energy project that is located on land that was previously mined for coal. The project includes 67 wind turbines and generates enough electricity to power approximately 35,000 homes. Recreation: Reclaimed coal mine land can be used for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, fishing, and camping. These activities can help to promote tourism and economic development in the surrounding area. Example: The Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia, is a 78-mile hiking and biking trail that runs along the Greenbrier River. The trail was built on a former rail line that was used to transport coal. Today, the trail is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and provides a boost to the local tourism industry. Industrial or commercial development: If the land is located in an area with good transportation access and infrastructure, it may be suitable for industrial or commercial development. For example, it could be used for manufacturing or distribution facilities, or for commercial or residential development. Example: The Osmose Wood Preserving Plant in Georgia, is an industrial facility that is located on land that was previously used for coal mining. The site was reclaimed and is now home to a facility that treats and preserves wood products for use in construction and other industries. The Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Pennsylvania, is a 700,000 square foot indoor sports facility that was built on land that was previously used for coal mining. The facility includes basketball courts, soccer fields, volleyball courts, and a fitness center, and has become a popular destination for sports enthusiasts in the region. Agriculture: Depending on the quality of the soil, the land may be suitable for certain types of agriculture, such as grazing, hay production, or certain types of crop production. The soil may need to be remediated or amended to make it suitable for plant growth, but the land can be a valuable resource for local food production. Example: West Virginia University (WVU) reclaimed mine lands project includes a demonstration farm in Morgantown, West Virginia. The farm is located on a reclaimed mine site and is used to demonstrate sustainable agriculture practices to farmers and landowners in the region. The farm includes a variety of crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries, as well as pastureland for livestock. The site also includes a greenhouse and a composting facility, which help to reduce waste and improve soil health. The farm has become a popular destination for field trips and educational programs, and serves as a model for other reclaimed mine land projects in the region. The project has helped to promote the economic development of the region by creating new opportunities for farmers and providing fresh, locally grown produce to the community. Wildlife habitat: Reclaimed coal mine land can be restored to provide habitat for wildlife. Formally mined land around Estevan is home to several threatened and endangered species, including the burrowing owl and the ferruginous hawk. If the land has unique ecological or cultural value, it may be suitable for conservation or recreation purposes. For example, it could be turned into a park, wildlife sanctuary, or nature reserve. This can help to preserve biodiversity and support the ecological health of the surrounding area. Example: The Bear Run Mine in Indiana, was one of the largest coal mines in the world, producing up to 8 million tons of coal annually. After the mine was closed, the site was reclaimed and transformed into the Bear Run Nature Reserve. The reserve includes wetlands, grasslands, and forests, and is home to a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, river otters, and white-tailed deer. It's important to note that the suitability of the land for any of these uses will depend on factors such as the size and shape of the land, its location, the condition of the soil and water resources, and local regulations and zoning restrictions. Additionally, the costs of any remediation or restoration efforts may need to be factored in when considering the economic viability of any of these options. Despite SaskPower’s lack of interest in reclaimed mine land, there are clearly economic development opportunities that are being missed. Perhaps The Nature Conservancy could be convinced to use their experience in Wyoming to conduct a Coal Infrastructure Reuse Report for Saskatchewan. Read the Nature Conservancy”s “Coal Infrastructure Reuse Report” for Wyoming here: Saskatchewan Coal Transition Centre

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