Updated: May 31, 2020
This piece is authored by Rachel Howlett
UPDATE : Teck Resources has pulled their proposal for the Frontier oil sands mine (February 23rd 2020)
Back in 2011, Teck Resources Limited submitted an application to the Alberta Energy Regulator for its Frontier project (1). Teck is a Canadian resource company that focuses on copper, zinc, steelmaking, coal, and energy through mineral development and mining (2). The company has its roots in Teck township, Ontario where their first mine was developed in 1913 following gold discovery in the town (2). The Frontier project would be an estimated $20 billion open pit oil mine in Northern Alberta, between Fort McMurray and Fort Chiwyan (3). The project is forecasted to operate until 2081 and produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen (low-grade crude oil) per day (1). The federal government is to make a decision regarding whether to approve this project at the end of February 2020 (3).
In July 2019, a joint review panel supported by the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Alberta Energy Regulator released their recommendations on the proposal (1). It concluded that the benefits of the proposed mine include the creation of 7,000 jobs for the construction of the mine and 2,500 jobs for the operation of the mine (1). The estimated monetary contribution to all three levels of government is $70 billion dollars over the course of the mine’s projected 41-year life (1). The panel also concluded that there would be significant adverse environmental effects regarding biodiversity, wetlands, the Ronald Lake bison heard and old-growth forests (1). Although all Indigenous groups touched by this project have signed agreements with Teck, it was stated in the review that “ this project is also likely to result in significant adverse effects to the asserted rights, use of lands and resources, and culture of Indigenous groups who use the project area”(1).
On January 13th, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that the decision was being carefully considered while taking into account Indigenous consultations and environmental repercussions (4). The Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenny, has stated his support for the project and has warned that the government would be implying that the country’s oil and gas sector has no future if Frontier does not get approved (4). The Green Party and many environmental groups, such as Indigenous Climate Action, Greenpeace Canada, and the David Suzuki Foundation, have called for the proposal to be rejected on the basis that Canada will not be able to meet its climate commitments (4).
During the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, Canada recommitted to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% (compared to its 2005 emission level) by 2050 (5). The Frontier project will increase national emissions rates by about 5% of the total oil sand emissions in 2016 and it is not in accordance with the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (1).
The final decision will be in the hands of the federal cabinet. Check back here by the end of February 2020 for updates.