Feds stymie future Coalspur expansion

·3 min read

Canada is putting a stop to new thermal coal mining projects and expansions of existing mines, including Coalspur Mining’s Phase I Vista Test Underground Mine and the Vista Mine Phase II Expansion.

Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, stated that the two projects would cause unacceptable environmental effects within federal jurisdiction.

Blocking the expansion of the local mine will have enormous impacts on the community of Hinton, said Robin Campbell, president of the Coal Association of Canada and secretary to the board.

It’s going to hurt 300 employees and their families who will lose jobs in a couple of years, it will hurt the tax base of the community, along with anybody associated with the mine, he added.

Combined with the loss of the Cardinal River Mine, that means close to 750 families have been negatively impacted by the reduction in coal mining, Campbell said.

“If you take 300 families out of the equation and take their kids out of the school system, you’re going to see a reduction of doctors and [teachers] in the community. Everything is affected,” Campbell said.

Coalspur can choose to proceed with the assessment of the projects under the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA), but the Government of Canada must determine if the effects of the projects are in the public interest in order to proceed.

Wilkinson’s statement was based on the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s review of the Initial Project Description, comments received, and the Government of Canada’s policy statement on future thermal coal mining projects and expansions.

The public policy statement on new thermal coal mining or expansion projects was announced on June 11, 2021.

The policy states that thermal coal projects are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects within federal jurisdiction and are not aligned with Canada’s domestic and international climate change commitments.

This position will inform federal decision making on thermal coal mining projects.

In a press release, the Canadian government stated that burning thermal coal is the single largest contributor to climate change and a major source of toxic pollution that harms human health.

“The Projects will produce thermal coal, which will hinder this international commitment in respect of climate change and would not make any net positive contribution to sustainability. The Projects may also hinder Canada’s international commitments under the Paris Agreement,” said Wilkinson about the Vista coal mine projects.

According to Campbell, 36 per cent of the world’s energy is still coal based.

“There is going to continue to be a world demand and if Canada wanted to do something constructive when it comes to greenhouse gases and climate change, you would think that they would want to use resources that are top quality, such as our coal is,” Campbell said, adding that Canada has some of the most stringent environmental regulations, high labour standards, world class health and safety, and legislative human rights.

“To shut down our coal, it’s going to be replaced by somebody, and are you really doing this whole climate change any justice if you’re going to have lower standard coal being used around the world by shutting down Canadian coal, which is high quality, low sulfur, and has all the environmental standards and human rights and labour legislation?” Campbell questioned.

Campbell also pointed out the resources belong to the province, not the federal government. The Alberta government has not responded yet to the recent federal policy statement.

Coalspur did not provide comment to The Hinton Voice on what this means for the future of the company or lifecycle of the mine.

In July 2020, Wilkinson designated the Phase I Vista Test Underground Mine Project to the IAA, along with the Vista Mine Phase II Expansion Project.

The federal government stated it will consider all relevant information about the extent to which the projects contribute to sustainability and how the projects impact the government’s ability to meet its environmental obligations and commitments in climate change.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice

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