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press release

Ecojustice in court to fight Coalspur Mines’ attempt to expand Vista thermal coal mine without federal impact assessment

May 19, 2021

CALGARY/TERRITORIES OF THE BLACKFOOT AND PEOPLES OF TREATIES 6 AND 7, HOME TO MÉTIS NATION OF ALBERTA, REGION III – Ecojustice is in court today and tomorrow on behalf of Keepers of the Water, Keepers of the Athabasca, and the West Athabasca Watershed Bioregional Society to fight against Coalspur Mines (Operations) Ltd’s attempt to overturn the designation of the Vista thermal coal mine expansion project for a federal impact assessment.

In July 2020, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson ordered a federal environmental review of the proposed Vista Coal mine expansion in Alberta. Coalspur, the proponent of the Vista Coal Mine, is now challenging the Minister’s decision so that it can proceed with the expansion – which could more than double the project’s yearly coal production – without a federal evaluation of the environmental impacts.

An impact assessment is an essential tool for understanding the full scope of risks that come with building projects and assessing whether there is any way to mitigate them. The existing Vista mine has never been subjected to a federal assessment, and the proposed expansion would make it one of the largest ever coal mines in Canada.

Representatives from the groups released the following statements:

Fraser Thomson, lawyer at Ecojustice:

“The Minister took a close look at the Vista project and determined that an expansion to what would be the biggest coal mine in Canada could not proceed without an impact assessment.”

“We are optimistic that the Court will agree with this very reasonable conclusion and let the federal impact assessment process continue so decision-makers and the public can understand how the Vista mine expansion would impact the climate, the environment, and Indigenous rights.”

Jesse Cardinal, executive director for Keepers of the Water:

“Coalspur must not be allowed to expand a major project like the Vista coal mine without a federal impact assessment. We need federal oversight to ensure the watersheds and all those who depend on the waters are going to be protected, and Treaty rights will not be breached.”

“Canada took a worldwide leadership role in eliminating coal as a source of energy by cofounding the Powering Past Coal Alliance in 2017. Allowing the Vista coal expansion contradicts this goal.”


  • Burning coal generates nearly half of carbon emissions around the world.
  • If built, the proposed expansion could result in the extraction of up to 15 MT of coal per year. When shipped and consumed abroad, burning this much coal would lead to 33 MT of carbon – the same amount of GHG emissions as driving over 7 million passenger vehicles for one year.
  • By comparison, Canada’s largest single source of carbon is currently another coal plant in Alberta that emits 12.7 MT of carbon dioxide a year – just over one-third of Vista’s total projected emissions.


Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.