Panel recommends approval of Teck’s Frontier Oil Sands Mine project, just 30-km south of Wood Buffalo National Park
— Press Release July 29, 2019
EDMONTON – A Joint Review Panel recommends approval of Teck’s Frontier Oil Sands Mine project, despite acknowledgments of a long list of adverse environmental impacts, including high risks to wildlife that use the area
In the same month that the UN warns Canada of swift action required to stop the degradation of Wood Buffalo National Park, a massive 290 sq-km open-pit oil sands mine project has been recommended for approval, which would place it just 30-km south of the Park’s borders. The project would be the largest of its kind in Alberta. The provincial-federal Joint Review Panel found the project to be in the public’s interest, despite the findings that it,
[…] 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.” And “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.”
CPAWS Northern Alberta participated in the public hearings in the Fall of 2018, voicing concerns over the potential impacts of the oil sands mine project on the Outstanding Universal Values of Wood Buffalo National Park, in particular on migratory birds and waterfowl that use the area. The region captures the convergence of 4 different flyways. The mortality risks for migratory birds that come in contact with toxic tailings ponds are very high. Of concern, the only proposed deterrent measures are known to be ineffective–evidence that is even acknowledged in the Joint Review Panel Report and then seemingly ignored.
The last remaining wild population of whooping crane travels to Wood Buffalo National Park every year to breed. The proposed mine would lie directly in the middle of the whooping crane migratory route to the Park (see map to the left). Removing valuable stopover habitat for these birds threatens this small population that travels hundreds of thousands of kilometers to reach their nesting grounds. However, the Panel states in their report that impacts on Whooping Crane would be negligible.
Although the Joint Review Panel acknowledges these potential adverse impacts to the wildlife that depend on this region, the Panel feels that the distance between the Park and the Project–a mere 30 kilometers–minimizes most environmental threats. In reality, the risks perpetuate beyond direct removal of habitat, and exert strong indirect effects on the movement, behaviour, distributions, and community dynamics of all the species that live in this area, in addition to the persistent impacts from existing industrial footprint in the region. The Panel’s decision overlooks the evidence of vast negative environmental impacts on the wildlife species that depend on this area.
Wood Buffalo is important due to its immense ecological value, and the Indigenous cultural and spiritual connections to the area, leading to its designation as a World Heritage Site in 1983. It is a part of the world’s largest protected intact boreal forest. The Park helps sustain herds of Threatened wood bison and endangered whooping crane. Indigenous communities depend upon the lands and the water that flows through it to maintain their ways of life.
For more information please visit: www.cpawsnab.org/wood-buffalo-np
Read the Joint-Review Panel final report here: Report of the Joint Review Panel (July 25 2019)
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the biodiversity within them. Over the last 50+ years, CPAWS has played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory. Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.
CPAWS has chapters in almost every province and territory across Canada, and two chapters here in Alberta – a Southern Alberta chapter located in Calgary and a Northern Alberta chapter located in Edmonton. As a collaborative organization, CPAWS works closely with government of all levels, industry representatives, and communities to manage our impact on a shared landscape. We also advocate for the creation of parks and protected areas for the benefit of both current and future generations of Canadians.