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Wilkinson 'wrestling' with how oilsands mine would fit into climate commitments

Last Updated Dec 18, 2019 at 6:10 pm MST

Photo. Supplied.

The federal environment minister says he’s spoken with his Alberta counterpart about how Canada’s climate commitments could weigh into his decision about a large proposed oilsands mine.

Alberta’s United Conservative government has urged Ottawa for a speedy approval of the Teck Resources $20.6-billion Frontier project near Wood Buffalo National Park in northeastern Alberta.

A federal-provincial review this summer determined Frontier would be in the public interest, even though it would be likely to harm the environment and Indigenous people.

On Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, McMurray Métis President Gail Gallupe said Teck made considerable environment stewardship commitments regarding Frontier.

She added management of Frontier impacts the McMurray Métis’ traditional land and harvesting rights as well as the environment.

“We have worked hard to ensure that the environment and our Métis rights are protected, while also ensuring our community benefits from this type of responsible development by Teck Resources.”

Fort McKay Métis President Ron Quintal also said they support the Frontier Mine.

He added 14 different Indigenous groups ratified agreements with the Vancouver-based company.

“It’s not something you don’t see every day by way of major oilsands projects coming out and making sure they do the consultation and assessment that takes into consideration so many Indigenous groups in a way this project has.”

Jonathan Wilkinson says if he agrees there would be significant adverse impacts, he will refer the matter to cabinet to make a decision by the end of February.

Teck has projected the mine will emit 4.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year, but some environmental groups have said that estimate is too low.

Wilkinson says Ottawa must assess how Frontier fits into the government’s promise to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“That is something that we will have to be discussing and wrestling with as we make a decision one way or the other,” Wilkinson said Tuesday after announcing up to $8.5 million in energy efficiency funding for the University of Calgary.

“That is a target that is not informed by politics. It’s informed by science.”

He said he’s had that discussion with Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon. Wilkinson said the two met before climate talks in Madrid this month and they planned to talk again on his current Alberta trip. Meetings were also lined up with “a number” of oil and gas company CEOs, as well as tech companies.