Photo: Justin Tang, The canadian Press
The federal minister of the Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson
After you have decided not to hold federal environmental assessment on a big project of expansion of a coal mine, the minister of the Environment Jonathan Wilkinson could eventually change its mind by the end of the month, learned The Duty. The project should make it possible to exploit and export 150 million tons of coal to asian markets, in a context where Canada boasts of its efforts to reduce the use of the worst of fossil fuels.
The project led by the company Coalspur Mine should lead to the expansion of the coal mine Vista, located west of Edmonton, Alberta. The mine plans to increase the production of ” thermal coal “, mainly exported to Asia, only to be burned to produce electricity. It has to increase it to a maximum of 15 million tonnes per year over a period of 10 years, a total of 150 million tons.
In an “analysis report” produced by the Agency of impact assessment in Canada (SAIC), the federal agency concluded, however, that the project should not be subject to an environmental review by the canadian government. The Agency noted however that this expansion project of an open-pit mine “would likely have adverse effects on fish and their habitat, including some aquatic species at risk and their critical habitat,” habitat that the federal government has a legal obligation to protect.
SAIC has also been found that the operation ” could have adverse effects on migratory birds, including nine species which are listed in the Act the species at risk act “. “The potential effects on the health of indigenous peoples could arise as a result of the increase of emissions in the atmosphere, the release of coal dust, noise of the project, changes in water quality and contamination of traditional foods “, stressed in addition the body.
Furthermore, it is acknowledged in the report that ” the combustion of coal from the project for the purposes of the production of electricity outside of Canada, is expected to generate greenhouse gas emissions “, but does not provide evaluation of these programs. Canada, reminded the SAIC, has announced that in 2018 the elimination of coal-fired plants in the country by 2030, in addition to being a member of an “alliance” of countries which has the goal to ” advance the abandonment of coal-fired power plants-traditional “. Ottawa has committed $ 275 million to the world Bank for the creation of the Program for the elimination of the coal and energy transition ” for developing countries.
Nevertheless, the expansion project is just under the threshold that would require the holding of a federal environmental assessment. For this, the increase of the “area mining” should be ” 50 % or more.” However, SAIC ” has determined that the increase of the area of mining will be of the order of 42.7 to 49.4 % “.
Based on the analysis of the federal body, the minister of the Environment Jonathan Wilkinson has therefore announced that in a first step an assessment of the canadian government ” is not justified “, leaving it to Alberta to conduct this test, according to the provincial laws. It has, however, recognized that ” the project may have negative effects in areas of federal jurisdiction “, but also ” adverse effects on the aboriginal rights of First Nations.
The decision in Ottawa was strongly criticized by first nations and environmental groups, that require a revision of the part of the Trudeau government. The group Ecojustice has filed a “request for designation” to the CNSA, in the month of may. The environmental organisation believes that the expansion will increase the area of operation of more than 50 %, but also that Canada must take account of the emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to the project. According to their assessment, supported by Équiterre, the emissions arising from the operation and from the combustion of this coal will rise each year to over 33 million tonnes of GHG, or the equivalent of seven million vehicles.
The SAIC did not respond to the questions of the Duty on emissions of GHG. The office of the minister Wilkinson has indicated, however, that the request of Ecojustice is currently being examined by the SAIC and that it ” will make a recommendation to the minister on the designation of the project. The minister should take a decision on the designation by July 30, 2020 “. Ottawa has also launched a “strategic assessment” on this industry, ” to ensure that the effects of federal competence, in particular those that are linked to climate change, are fully taken into account in the federal assessment process impact “.
A fossil resource is still commonly used
Even if its combustion represents a serious threat to the climate of the world, coal continues to be widely used in the world. According to data from the international energy Agency, nearly 40 % of the electricity is produced with coal, and a little over 25% of all energy produced. The world consumption annual around today the 5500 million tonnes, and it is estimated that it is expected to grow until at least 2024. The Asian countries alone account for nearly 75 % of the global demand for coal. China is the first producer and the first consumer.