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

Just Posted

Rebound recovery program helps more than 50 PQB businesses remain open

Nearly $90K in aid received through Oceanside Initiatives plan

Parksville family receives anonymous letters complaining children are being too loud

Letter said the noise of kids playing in the backyard is ‘unbearable’

PQBeat Podcast: Beloved Parksville volunteer Joan LeMoine

Discussion includes childhood memories, receiving the key to the city and more

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Most Read