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.

Just Posted

The coroner on scene of a workplace fatality in Oak Bay on Oct. 20, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Crews needed to clear wires for tree pruning investigation in Oak Bay

Traffic restricted on McNeill Avenue near Byng Road

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Federal NDP leader promises to champion freighter traffic control of southern Vancouver Island

Jagmeet Singh, local NDP candidates spoke in North Saanich Saturday morning

People will soon be able to vote on the “human” names of the two newly born calves of the Southern Resident killer whale population, J57 and J58. (The Canadian Press/ The Center for Whale Research)
Vancouver Islanders can help choose names for two new baby orcas

Southern Resident killer whales J57, J58 born Sept. 4 and 24

Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)
COVID-19 co-operation a casualty of B.C.’s pandemic election

NDP’s Horgan weaponizes senior care, B.C. Liberal Wilkinson calls for ‘wartime economy’

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

A injection kit is seen inside the newly opened Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continued to see the highest numbers of overdoses

Investigators work at the Sagmoen farm in Silver Creek. - Image credit: Observer file photo.
Sex workers allegedly called to farm of Okanagan man convicted of assault, RCMP investigating

Curtis Sagmoen, convicted in relation to assault of sex trade workers, is prohibited from soliciting escorts

(Black Press Media files)
Early voters more likely to favour NDP, but overall B.C. election is tightening: poll

According to Elections BC, 383,477 people cast a ballot during advanced voting days

A jail cell at the Nanaimo RCMP detachment. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman reports she was injured by Nanaimo RCMP while being jailed

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. looking into Oct. 1 incident

(Pixabay)
Wave of racist emails ‘unleashed’ on B.C. researchers investigating racism in health care

The team has received close to 600 calls and emails since the investigation started in July

Two Saanich businesswomen are taking over what was previously Dig This gardening store in Broadmead Village Shopping Centre, and turning it into a hub for local food and community. (Google Maps)
New restaurant, grocery hybrid brings local food and community to Saanich

Niche Grocerant is partnering with restaurants and producers to bring local food to the suburbs

Most Read