Why we're intervening in the Teck Frontier Mine hearings

Steam rising from a tailing pond at a Suncor mining site, Alberta, Canada. Copyright Alex MacLean.

The Teck Frontier mine is the largest tar sands mine ever proposed. It would cost $20 billion and operate for 41 years. The Council of Canadians will be acting as an intervenor in the Joint Review Panel hearings for the project in Fort McMurray in September because it's unacceptable across every metric we can think of: 

  • Indigenous Rights: The Mikisew Cree First Nation, Smith's Landing First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation amongst other nations have stated the project would harm their territories and livelihoods. Teck has shown little regard for these nations’ concerns, even going as far to say they don’t want to hold hearings in Fort Chipewyan (where many of these nations' members would be most able to access them), because of ‘health and safety concerns’ related to their staff and the panel members staying there. 

The construction of a Mikisew Cree First Nation hunting cabin upstream from Lake Claire. Copyright DPI Territorial. 

  • Climate Change: This project is a poster child of the tar sands expansion that new pipelines are helping facilitate -- Teck was one of the first companies to sign a contract with Kinder Morgan for Trans Mountain Expansion back in 2017. At a maximum production level of 260,000 barrels of bitumen a day, on a life-cyle basis the Frontier Mine would produce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 35 million new cars on the road. This is definitively not in line with our Paris commitments or the Alberta oil sands cap.
  • Jobs: Cost cutting through automation during the past few years of economic recovery means there has been fewer jobs associated with new tar sands projects, which already perform poorly per dollar spent compared to most sectors]. Teck already delayed the project application once by three years because it has such narrow profit margins relative to the price of oil, so it’s a fair assumption to say they will cut as many labour corners as possible if the project gets built. Many of the jobs are also expected to fly-in, fly-out which come with social costs for workers and communities.
  • Water: Teck’s plans for the Frontier mine includes tailings ponds and water withdrawals connected to Lake Claire which feeds the Peace-Athabasca delta and the Wood Buffalo Park World Heritage Site. The Wood Buffalo Park is already at risk of losing its UNESCO status because of ecological deterioration across 15 of 17 indicators.
  • Ecosystems: The mine will cover and require the clearcutting of 292km2, the size of Mississauga (and more than twice the size of Vancouver). It is being built on land that is critical to already endangered caribou and bison populations.
  • Teck's track record: In various blog posts dating back to 2012, we have noted that Teck operates the highly-polluting and water-intensive Carmen de Andacollo copper and gold mine in Chile; that it operates one of the biggest lead and zinc smelters in the world in Trail, British Columbia; that its existing and proposed coal mines in British Columbia have prompted concerns from the US Environmental Protection Agency about the pollution of Kootenai-Koocanusa watersheds; that it owns a copper and zinc mine in central Newfoundland that could use power from the Muskrat Falls dam; and that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was recently reviewed by a federally-appointed expert panel that includes former Teck executive Doug Horswill.

You can read our letter of request to participate to the project's joint federal-provincial review panel below. It was accepted earlier this summer so I will be submitting written comments and presenting them at the hearings in Fort McMurray in late September. 

 

Submitted by: Bronwen Tucker, Prairies-NWT Organizer, the Council of Canadians

Dear Mr. Bolton,

I am writing on behalf of the Council of Canadians to indicate our interest in participating in the upcoming public hearing for the Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project through the Joint Review Panel process.

We would like to emphasize the importance of public participation on the hearing for this project and thank you for inviting requests to participate.

Summary of evidence to be submitted

Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada’s leading social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 chapters across the country. Through our grassroots citizens’ network and campaign staff we have access to unique, critical, and expert research on the impacts of this project on our environment, society, and economy.

 The Council of Canadians will submit evidence on the long-lasting impacts of this project on:

  • Indigenous rights under UNDRIP,
  • our climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, the Pan Canadian Framework, and the Alberta Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act,
  • the health of the Athabasca river watershed,
  • the World Heritage Site status of Wood Buffalo National Park,
  • and on workers and our economy.

We will also submit information regarding the environmental, social, and governance record of Teck Resources Limited in other projects globally.

The Council of Canadians did not file a Statement of Concern regarding this project previously due to organizational capacity and the uncertainty that Teck Resources would proceed with the project given its economic and social license risks.

Nature and Scope of Intended Participation

We intend to submit evidence on the topics outlined above by the submission filing deadline and participate in public hearings through oral presentations of this evidence.

Hearing Start Date

The public hearings for this CEAA review process should not be conducted before the World Heritage Committee conclusions on Canada's Action Plan to safeguard Wood-Buffalo National Park, which not likely to finish before December 2018. Beginning public hearings for this project before this determination would be in contravention to your mandate from the federal government to consider the impacts on this part as it would not allow the panel to receive the necessary information to make its decision. Cumulative impacts from the tar sands, including the impacts to water and climate, are already putting the WBNP and its status as a World Heritage Site designation at risk.

We urge the panel to extend the window for applications for participation as the June 6, 2018 announcement left only 16 days for the public to submit their requests.

Beyond the WBNP considerations, the Council of Canadians also requests pushing processes beyond 2020 in order to gain more clarity and fulsome information of impacts and conduct more fulsome Free, Prior & Informed Consent of impacted Indigenous communities from source of the mine, to tidewater, and to the climate impacted communities of Canada.

Preferred Hearing Location

As the territories of many separate First Nations in Treaty 8 are directly impacted by this project, we request that hearings be held in each impacted community. Our Prairies-NWT Regional Office is in Edmonton and we would also like to request a hearing date here. 

Thank you for your consideration of these important matters and our request to participate in the public hearings.

Sincerely,

Bronwen Tucker
Prairies-NWT Organizer
The Council of Canadians