The Government of Canada Releases its Final Decision on the Grassy Mountain Coal Project
August 6, 2021 — Ottawa — Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
The Government of Canada recognizes the mining sector as an important economic driver in Canada. However, the mining of coal can include significant adverse environmental effects—leading to impacts that matter to Canadians.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, issued a Decision Statement under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) for the Grassy Mountain Coal Project.
After careful deliberation and review of available and relevant information, which includes the Joint Review Panel's Report, the Minister concluded the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects under CEAA 2012. The Government of Canada has determined those effects are not justified in the circumstances and therefore, the project cannot proceed.
The Minister concluded the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects to:
- Surface water quality, including from selenium effluent discharge;
- Westslope Cutthroat Trout, listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act, and its habitat;
- Whitebark Pine, listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act; and
- Physical and cultural heritage of the Kainai, Piikani and Siksika First Nations.
In addition, the Minister concluded that the project is likely to contribute to existing significant adverse cumulative effects to:
- Westslope Cutthroat Trout and its habitat;
- Whitebark Pine;
- Little brown bat; and
- Current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes and physical and cultural heritage of the Kainai, Piikani and Siksika First Nations.
The Government of Canada appreciates the constructive dialogue it has had with Indigenous communities throughout the assessment process. The relationships that have been formed reflect the Government of Canada's commitment to meaningful engagement and reconciliation. The comments received from all participants throughout the environmental assessment process, including the robust scientific advice received from various experts, was invaluable and allowed the Government of Canada to make well-informed decisions.
"The Government of Canada must make decisions based on the best available scientific evidence while balancing economic and environmental considerations. It is in Canada's best interests to safeguard our water ways for healthy fish populations like the Westslope Cutthroat Trout, respect Indigenous peoples' culture and way of life, and protect the environment for future generations."
— The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Benga Mining Limited was proposing to construct and operate an open-pit metallurgical coal mine near the Crowsnest Pass, approximately seven kilometres north of the community of Blairmore, in southwest Alberta. As proposed, the Grassy Mountain Coal Project's production capacity would have been up 4.5 million tonnes of processed coal per year, over a mine-life of about 25 years.
Consultations with Indigenous communities throughout the environmental assessment were extensive, with 14 groups participating in the process, and allocated funding of $714,704 provided to support their participation in the various steps of the review.
An independent Joint Review Panel, established with the Alberta Energy Regulator, conducted the rigorous and science-based federal environmental assessment process. Experts from many federal departments participated in the process by providing advice and technical expertise throughout the project's review. These departments include: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Health Canada.
The Joint Review Panel conducted extensive public consultations throughout the review, including a 29-day virtual public hearing. Over 100 individuals, including members of the public, representatives from Indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations, municipal governments, expert witnesses, legal counsel, and federal and provincial experts actively participated in the virtual hearing.
Thousands of comments were received from individuals and groups throughout the environmental assessment, and this valuable input was carefully reviewed and taken into account in the development of the Joint Review Panel Report.
The Government of Canada is particularly concerned with deleterious substances associated with coal mining. Effluent from coal mines in Canada can be a source of pollution that harms aquatic life and specifically fish and fish habitat. As such, Environment and Climate Change Canada is developing the Coal Mining Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act. These proposed regulations will establish effluent quality standards for deleterious substances of concern, including selenium, nitrate and suspended solids.
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
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