In July, The Joint Review Panel released its report on the Teck Mine in Northern Alberta. Andrew Nikiforuk writes:
Despite finding “significant adverse effects,” the panel declared that the mammoth project was in the public interest.
It added that the mine “would maximize the value of a product which is essential to everyday life” and provide income for Indigenous peoples of Alberta and Canada. Assuming, that is, oil prices reach $95 a barrel.
The price of oil is now $50 a barrel. Nonetheless, the push is on to approve the mine. And that, despite the wide reaching destruction that would be the consequence of opening the mine. The report pulls no punches about that destruction:
The project will destroy 292 square kilometres of the boreal forest, most of which is prime waterfowl habitat.
The report adds, “The project is likely to result in a significant adverse effect to biodiversity, primarily as a result of the loss of wetlands and old-growth forests.”
There will be a high to moderate loss of habitat for migratory birds whose populations are already dwindling.
According to the report, “more than 40 per cent of the old-growth forest within the regional study area will be removed and will not be recreated for more than 100 years after reclamation.”
In addition, the project “has the potential to make an incremental contribution to already existing significant adverse cumulative effects to woodland caribou.”
“Significant adverse effects” are expected for Roland Lake bison herd, a small population of disease-free genetically distinct wood bison.
In its first decade of operation the project will use about 105.2 million cubic metres of water — about 100 billion liters of water, or 100 small lakes.
The project will destroy or alter fish habitat for 1.5 million square metres in the Red Clay Creek and Big Creek watersheds, as well as the Athabasca River.
It will affect the traditional land use, rights and culture of 14 First Nations.
Total greenhouse emissions are estimated at 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year — about the amount generated by 400,000 homes or 800,000 passenger vehicles, or one large coal-fired power plant.
Given all this destruction, there are still those who argue that the mine is a good idea. That notion is insane.
Image: The New York Times