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Second thoughts: mining association rethinks its support of Bill C-69

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 8/28/2020 2:20:00 PM

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) is beginning to regret the support it lent to Bill C-69, the federal government’s Impact Assessment Act (IAA).

“While MAC was supportive and actively engaged in all stages of the review of the federal assessment processes that led to the new IAA, this support was contingent on it being implemented well,” said President and CEO of MAC Pierre Gratton in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the past month has now given our industry reason to question whether it will be implemented in a fair and efficient manner.”

The straw that may have broken the camel’s back is Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s decision to designate Teck Coal Limited’s Castle Project, an expansion of its Fording River Operations open-pit metallurgical coal mine. The Castle Project will provide access to an adjacent deposit of more economically mineable coal and maintain the production capacity of 10 million tonnes per year. The Castle Project is under review by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office.

Earlier, Wilkinson had ordered an impact assessment of the Vista Coal Mine Phase II Expansion Project along with the Vista Coal Underground Mine Project near Hinton, Alberta. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada has also just released a new Strategic Assessment of Climate Change (dated July 2020), which MAC says includes numerous requirements that are unworkable for the mining sector.

“One of the government’s loudest messages during the debate on Bill C-69 was that it would create more certainty for investment. This decision does exactly the opposite,” Gratton said. He believes politics played a role in the Castle Project decision.

“This is a case of the government succumbing to pressure from political interest groups while also placating the US government’s EPA and the state of Montana,” he said. Any relevant issues could have been fully dealt with during the provincial review, he added.

Though Wilkinson’s decision does not specifically reference American interests, it does acknowledge concerns expressed by “other jurisdictions” and specifically mentions potential cumulative effects to transboundary environments, as well as potential adverse impacts on Aboriginal and Treaty rights that can only be addressed by the federal government.

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