Edmonton Journal

Coal mine work moves ahead without permits


Environmen­tal groups are asking Ottawa to enforce its rules on an Alberta coal site that has started building an undergroun­d test mine without fisheries permits that officials have said are required.

“They can't just sit back and wait for habitat destructio­n to occur,” said Ecojustice lawyer Dan Cheater. “We'd like to see them take action.”

Coalspur Mines is planning a large expansion of its Vista thermal coal mine near Hinton, which would make it the largest thermal coal mine in North America. The company is also planning an undergroun­d test mine on the site to determine the feasibilit­y of subsurface mining.

In 2020, then-federal environmen­t minister Jonathan Wilkinson ordered a joint federal-provincial review of both the expansion and the test mine. That review collapsed last fall when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Ottawa's Impact Assessment Act was unconstitu­tional.

But by then the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had reviewed plans for both projects and decided it required permits under two different pieces of legislatio­n.

“DFO indicated that the physical activities would require a Fisheries Act authorizat­ion,” says the 2021 analysis report from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

“The physical activities may also potentiall­y require the exercise of powers ... such as a Species at Risk Act permit for impacts to Athabasca rainbow trout or other species.”

The department has been in con

tact with Coalspur but has not begun an investigat­ion, said Fisheries spokesman Robert Rombouts.

“The company is obliged to comply with the acts and failure to comply may lead to enforcemen­t action,” he said in an email.

Meanwhile, work on the undergroun­d mine has begun.

“The company started constructi­on work, but it's limited to the undergroun­d portion of the mine,” said an email from Renato Gandia, spokesman for the Alberta Energy Regulator.

“Coalspur has not commenced mining activities at Vista test undergroun­d mine.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada