For more than a century, Canmore was one of the largest coal mining towns in Southern Alberta. At least ten mines operated in the immediate town area.
The final mine closed in the late 1970s. The mining legacy serves as the foundation of the community but resulted in large areas with mining shafts and tunnels beneath them.
Canmore is considered one of the most extensively researched, heavily scrutinized, highly regulated areas for undermining development in North America. Over 1000 homes and a school have all been safely developed on undermined land.
Over the last 40 years, engineering best practices and technology innovation have come a long way in mitigating undermined areas. These tried and tested engineering practices and construction solutions are now practiced in sites in other communities.
Like every engineering analysis for every building built in North America under modern building codes, no one can be 100 per cent confident in every single variable considered for design. While not zero risk, approaches have advanced to a state where the possibility of an occurrence is no different than any other structural engineering process, such as driving under a bridge, for example.
At all times, public safety is the primary concern. If there is uncertainty, significant work is done so that in the event there is a mitigation failure, the hazard is very small.
Undermining Mitigation and Liability
There are several mitigation techniques that can be applied to undermined land.
TSMV works with third-party, accredited experts to assess and manage the risks associated with development. These engineering professionals must approve any plans to develop on site where undermining exists. Prior to development, all undermined land is assessed to determine the appropriate mitigation for safe use in that area.
Three regulations were enacted by the Province in 1998 relating to undermining. They are:
- Canmore Undermining Review Regulation
- Canmore Undermining Indemnity Regulation
- Canmore Undermining Exemption from Liability Regulation
Under the undermining regulations (as per Alberta Regulation 113/97) the Town of Canmore is not liable for any loss or damage relating to undermining on the land designated in Alberta (Regulation 114/97).
The Town of Canmore MDP (section 3.7) states that “development on undermined lands within the Three Sisters Resorts NRCB decision area … is covered by the Canmore Undermining Review Regulation 114/1997” (2016, p. 18).