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Posted: July 17, 2021

Wildsight pleased Tent Mountain requires impact assessment

B.C. and Alberta-based environmental and grassroots Indigenous groups are pleased that Montem Resources’ Tent Mountain coal mine project will require a federal environmental assessment.

The Tent Mountain project, which straddles the border between British Columbia and Alberta, is located in the southwest region of the province, 16 km west of the town of Coleman, Alta., in the Crowsnest Pass.

On June 28, Federal Minister Jonathan Wilkinson designated the project for a federal impact assessment because of the potential for the project to cause adverse effects within federal jurisdiction, as well as adverse impacts on the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada.

A number of First Nations and groups based in Alberta, B.C. and the United States requested that the project be designated for federal review.

The original request was made by the Kainai/Blood Tribe and Siksika Nations, citing significant impact to their traditional lands, rights and waters. Subsequent requests came from Ecojustice on behalf of clients CPAWS Southern Alberta, Livingstone Landowners Group and Niisitapi Water Protectors.

Supportive designation requests were also filed by Member of Parliament Heather McPherson, the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative, the Alberta Wilderness Association, and two local ranching families.

Local British Columbia-based conservation organization Wildsight also submitted a designation request, supporting the argument that because of the cross-boundary nature of the project, a federal assessment is required.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency also requested the project be designated due to concerns about the cross-border nature of the project and likelihood for impacts in the Elk Valley watershed — especially from selenium pollution — which eventually drains into the United States.

The Blood Tribe/Kainai has also recently released a community update reiterating their opposition to any proposed coal developments in Alberta and the Elk Valley.

In his decision the Minister concluded that the adverse impacts of the project would not be fully addressed through project design or standard mitigation or evaluated effectively through a single provincial assessment.

The decision to require a federal assessment was informed by the likelihood of the project to have potential effects to transboundary environments, Indigenous peoples, and fish and fish habitat, especially given the uncertainty around the effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures for release of selenium and other deleterious substances.

“We are happy to see the decision to designate Tent Mountain for a federal assessment addresses the transboundary nature of the project and the inability of any one province to properly assess the effects of the entire project on both sides of the border,” stated Randal Macnair, Elk Valley Conservation Coordinator with Wildsight.

“Tent Mountain is one of at least 12 coal mine proposals or projects in the Canadian Rockies that could have major downstream impacts. Selenium contamination is already a major issue in the Elk Valley and it is important that the impacts of this project on that watershed are captured through the federal assessment.”

David Khan, Ecojustice lawyer, added: “The Tent Mountain coal mine threatens clean water, the climate and Indigenous rights. Straddling the B.C. and Alberta border, this mine is part of a suite of intensive coal development projects proposed for the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains — projects Ecojustice’s clients fear will cause irreversible, devastating harm to this region. That’s why, on behalf of our clients, Ecojustice applauds Minister Wilkinson’s decision to designate Tent Mountain for an impact assessment. This process would allow the federal government to understand the full risks of the project and make an informed decision on whether it is in Canadians’ best interests to let the Tent Mountain coal project proceed.”

Montem Resources map

Submitted by Wildsight


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