Environment

Frontier mine won’t go ahead as Teck withdraws proposal


On Sunday evening, Teck Resources announced it was pulling its application for the proposed Frontier mine, a massive oilsands project 30 km south of Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta.

Chief Gerry Cheezie of the Smith’s Landing First Nation told Cabin Radio: “I’m ecstatic that Teck has realized what the experts have been saying all along, that this project is uneconomical and it made no sense to do it.”

Smith’s Landing, across the Alberta border from Fort Smith, has been vocal about a claimed lack of consultation with Teck and “significant adverse cumulative impacts” from developments like mines and dams to the south.

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Don Lindsay, Teck’s president and chief executive, said in a letter to federal environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson that the company was not shying away from environmental concerns regarding the project, but hoped “withdrawing from the process will allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward” that is not deadline-driven.

“Global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products,” Lindsay wrote. 

“This does not yet exist here today and, unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved.”

Lindsay went on to say it is evident “there is no constructive path forward for the project.”

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The federal government had been expected to either approve or reject the proposed mine this coming week.

Cheezie believes the decision was based primarily on money.

“It’s too bad issues like this need to be decided based on economics, and not on doing something to save our planet for future children and future generations,” he said.

In July, The Narwhal reported the predicted economic benefits of the project were based on oil prices not seen since 2014. Projections pegged the price of oil at US$95 per barrel – but, in December 2019, Teck told investors oil prices were expected to stay in the US$60 to US$70 range for decades.

At 260,000 barrels of oil a day and prices of US$95 per barrel, Teck had originally predicted up to $70 billion in income for various levels of government. The Frontier project was also expected to create 7,000 jobs during the mine’s construction phase and another 2,500 operational jobs over the mine’s anticipated 41-year life.

A news release from the company stated Teck would write down the $1.13-billion carrying value of the project.

‘Premier and cabinet acted irresponsibl’

Meanwhile, Cheezie said he would go ahead with a planned demonstration in front of the NWT’s Legislative Assembly at noon on Tuesday.

“We believe the premier and cabinet acted irresponsibly in regards to how they dealt with the issue, the health of our people and the health of the Mackenzie River Basin,” he said.

“It’s still an issue that needs to be addressed by the people that voted them in.”

On Saturday afternoon, at an event about the Teck mine held at Yellowknife’s Sir John Franklin High School, Cheezie had accused the territorial government of “sitting on the side of the provincial government” instead of standing up for the people and water of the NWT.

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