Teck Frontier Mine cancelled: was this the right call?


Tyler McKay | Assistant News Editor

Featured Image: Teck Resources Limited’s CEO Don Lindsay. | Courtesy of Reuters/Rodrigo Garrido/Financial Post

Teck Resources Limited has officially withdrawn its application for the Frontier Mine. This Mine has been in the news lately due to vocal opposition preceding an expected decision by the federal government this week on whether or not to let the project continue.

This comes after the environmental impact assessment began over eight years ago on January 19, 2012.

The Teck Frontier Mine was proposed for the extraction of bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta. This mine would span 240 square kilometers, which is roughly the size of Brampton.

The mine would have been located north of Fort McMurray and was projected to produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen per day. The mine would cost $20.6 billion to construct with a projected revenue of $70 billion over its 40-year lifespan.

In the 2015 and 2019 elections however, Prime Minister Trudeau promised to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to meet the goal of a reduction of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This was agreed to in the 2016 Paris Agreement.

If this project had been approved, it would unveil a hypocrisy on the issue. How can we reduce our GHG emissions while approving pipelines and open pit oil sands mines? Don Lindsay, president and CEO of Teck Resources Limited, seemed to recognize this.

“Global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdiction to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products. This does not yet exist here today.”

This was from the application withdrawal letter to the federal government.

“Unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. in that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project,” continued Lindsay.

While it is true that Canada only emits 1.6 per cent of global GHGs, Canada is in the top 10 of per capita emitters. It is important for us to make changes to curb these emissions, not simply to reduce the total, but to show that we are serious about addressing the issue of climate change.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland said: “Even if all Canadians ceased emitting carbon dioxide, we wouldn’t move the dial. A big part of our task needs to be leading the multilateral challenge.”

Our climate goals are about providing an example on the world stage that other nations can follow. The construction of the Teck Frontier Mine would sully the image of Canada being serious about confronting global climate change.

As for GHG emissions, according to the Impact Assessment of Canada, approximately 4.1 megatons of CO2 equivalent would be emitted per year.

This represents 5.4 per cent of total oil sands emissions based on 2016 data. This one project would increase the emissions of the oil sands by an unacceptable amount. The Paris goals would not be met if this project had continued.

The Mine issue is not just about Canada meeting its Paris climate goals, but also protecting local environments.

This Mine would destroy swathes of wetlands and boreal forest. Wetlands are a key part of the biodiversity of a region and are important in the sequestration of carbon. So, not only would the mine emit more CO2, but it would also eliminate the ability of the environment to naturally contain those emissions.

Another crucial concern is the proximity of the mine to Wood Buffalo National Park. According to the assessment report, the mine would be 27 kilometers away at its closest point. This puts environmentally sensitive locations in jeopardy, including old-growth forests and many species at risk including woodland caribou, fisher, lynx, and bison.

It is worth considering these factors when assessing Teck’s decision to withdraw their application. There is more at stake here than the economy. It would be far more beneficial to make the move towards the less environmentally detrimental renewable energies.

Great strides are currently being made in solar and wind energy. It is crucial that we pursue these technologies ahead of fossil fuels, and the cancellation of the Frontier Mine provides more of an opportunity to do just that.

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