A $20 billion northern Alberta oil sands project proposed by Vancouver’s Teck Resources Ltd. has been deemed to be in the public interest by a joint review panel.
The panel found Teck’s massive 260,000 barrel-per-day oil sands mine 100 kilometres north of Fort McMurray would have significant environmental impacts.
“We find that the project is likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects to wetlands, old-growth forests, wetland- and old-growth-reliant species at risk, the Ronald Lake bison herd, and biodiversity,” a 1,325-page joint review report states.
“The 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.
“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.”
But the project would also have significant economic impacts:
• 7,000 construction jobs;
• 2,500 ongoing operations jobs over 41-year mine life; and
• $70 billion in federal, provincial and municipal taxes.
“Although we find that there will be significant adverse project and cumulative effects on certain environmental components and indigenous communities, under our authority as the AER (Alberta Energy Regulator), we consider these effects to be justified and that the Frontier project is in the public interest,” the panel states.
The positive recommendation isn’t necessarily a green light, however. The federal environment minister will consider it.
“If the minister decides that the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, the decision on whether the effects are justified in the circumstances will be referred to cabinet,” the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency states.
Teck, which is a diversified mining company with metallurgical coal and copper mines and zinc smelter, made its first foray into oil sands when it partnered with Suncor Energy Inc. on the Fort Hills oil sands project.
Teck holds a 21 per cent share in the $17 billion Fort Hills mine, which went into production in 2018.
Teck claims the Frontier project would have lower greenhouse gas intensity than about half of the oil currently refined in the U.S. That is partly owing to the paraffinic froth treatment it will use, which eliminates the need for an upgrader.