Oilsands mine in public interest despite ‘significant adverse’ effects, panel finds

Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. aims to build the Frontier mine near Wood Buffalo National Park

A federal-provincial panel says a proposed northeastern Alberta oilsands mine would be in the public interest, even though it would likely significantly harm the environment and Indigenous people.

Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. aims to build the $20.6-billion Frontier mine near Wood Buffalo National Park in two phases.

Its total capacity would be 260,000 barrels of oil a day. More than 290 square kilometres of land would be disturbed.

Teck has said it aims to start producing oil in 2026, with the mine lasting for more than four decades.

“While the panel has concluded that the project is in the public interest, project and cumulative effects to key environmental parameters and on the asserted rights, use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, and culture of Indigenous communities have weighed heavily in the panel’s assessment,” said the report released Thursday.

ALSO READ: Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

It said the project would likely result in significant adverse effects to wetlands, old-growth forests and biodiversity, as well as to Indigenous people in the area.

“The proposed mitigation measures have not been proven to be effective or to fully mitigate project effects on the environment or on Indigenous rights, use of lands and resources, and culture.”

The panel’s report includes several dozen recommended conditions for Teck and the federal and provincial governments.

They include mitigating harm to wildlife, monitoring pollutants and taking feedback from nearby First Nations into account.

But the panel also said there are economic benefits. Over the project’s expected lifespan, the federal government could expect to reap $12 billion in taxes and Alberta could rake in $55 billion, with another $3.5 billion in municipal property taxes, it said.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is to determine if the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when mitigation measures are taken into account. If she decides that’s the case, it’s up to the federal cabinet to decide whether those effects are justified in the circumstances. Ottawa’s decision is due in February.

Environmental groups have questioned how allowing the mine would square with Canada and Alberta’s plans to meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“A project like this can lock in emissions for generations and we think it’s really important that any conditions … ensure that those emissions will go on a downward trajectory and not hold us up from our own climate goals,” said Nikki Way, a senior analyst at the Pembina Institute environmental think-tank.

Teck projects the mine will emit 4.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year, but Way says Teck is underestimating that number by two megatonnes.

Given the mine’s long life, she said she’s also concerned about who would pick up the tab for the eventual cleanup in the event Teck couldn’t pay for it.

To that end, the panel recommended Alberta complete its review of a mine financial security program, which collects a damage deposit of sorts from operators over time to ensure taxpayers won’t be left on the hook.

That recommendation doesn’t go far enough to ensuring Teck is held to the right standard, said Way.

“We think it’s a reasonable ask and we were really disappointed not to see it.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Stanley Humphries school graduates donate $7,500 to various organizations

Doukhobor Discovery Centre and food bank are some of the recipients

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

Traffic finally eases along Arrow Lakes ferry routes

Motorists were stuck for up to six hours in ferry lineups over the weekend

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Ex-Okanagan Mountie forfeits 20 days’ pay after sexual misconduct review

A former Vernon RCMP constable made sexual comments, grabbed genitals of male officer in two incidents 10 years ago

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

Most Read