The future of coal was on the mind's of many Estevan residents Wednesday morning as local MLA Lori Carr held a question and answer session with her constituents at the Days Inn.

With a national movement underway to phase out coal mining by 2030, small modular reactors have surfaced as an alternative. An SMR site could be built in Estevan over the next decade, Carr said.

"We'll know in 2024 if Estevan is chosen by the federal government and if Estevan is eligible for siting, and then it'll take up to 2028 or 2029 if the federal government goes through their process, if they're going to give us a permit to actually build," Carr said, adding that the other site being considered is in Elbow, Sask, which is south of Saskatoon.

"I will fight tooth and nail that it goes in Estevan."

Carr said despite the industry upheaval, the southeast remains an attractive option for SaskPower.

"The Estevan area has the infrastructure necessary to power the province, as we have had for decades and will for decades to come," she said. "We have a workforce that can be retooled and run different types of power plants if needed."

Carr added that SaskPower is currently looking at converting Shand Power Station, which primarily uses coal, into a natural gas facility.

"Shand has a useful life into 2042, so it makes absolutely no sense to leave a stranded asset," she said. "We have over 1,200 megawatts of transmission line in the Estevan area. Those 1,200 megawatts will be used in the's just a matter of seeing exactly what that looks like."

Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig expressed frustration at the federal government's lack of action or urgency on the matter.

"I know myself, I've been talking to lots of ministers, right hand people, that they talk the talk but they never seem to want to come down here and actually have a meeting with the province and with SPC and collaboratively work together on a game plan for what we're going to do down here," he said.

Carr, who grew up in Estevan, said she's well aware of the rich history that coal has in the southeast. 

"Obviously for the community of Estevan, coal mining is a huge part of our history and I would like to see it continue in the future," she said. "We do have to work with federal regulations moving forward, and if we can find a way, it would be awesome."

The province has given the Estevan region eight million dollars for economic development, in an effort to diversify the economy.