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A coal mine stands on flat, wet ground. In the distance are snow capped mountains.

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press release

STATEMENT: Vista coal mine expansion to undergo federal impact assessment, Ecojustice reacts

July 30, 2020

CALGARY – Ecojustice lawyer and climate program director Alan Andrews issued the following statement in response to Minister Wilkinson’s decision to designate Coalspur’s Vista coal mine expansion for a federal impact assessment:

Minister Wilkinson has shown real climate leadership by requiring that the Vista coal mine expansion go through a federal impact assessment. This will have been a tough decision but it was absolutely necessary to show Canadians and our international allies that it is serious about tackling the climate crisis and upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples.

“The carbon emissions from this project will contribute to the climate crisis regardless of where the coal is burned. If Canada wants to continue to build on its climate leadership and power past coal, it must consider all the impacts that this mine would have on the environment and Indigenous rights, including those caused by the carbon pollution emitted when the coal is burned overseas.”

“The reality is we don’t have time to be hypocritical, indecisive, or gradual when it comes to phasing out the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel. The science tells us that, globally, we must halve emissions by 2030 to avoid condemning our children to climate chaos. Extracting and burning more thermal coal will make achieving that goal impossible.”

Ecojustice, on behalf of the Keepers of the Water, Keepers of the Athabasca, and the West Athabasca Watershed Bioregional Society, sent a formal request in May 2020 urging Minister Wilkinson to designate the Vista coal mine expansion for an impact assessment.


  • Burning coal is responsible for nearly half of carbon emissions around the world.
  • Canada, along with the UK, has led the Powering Past Coal Initiative, a global initiative to promote the phase-out of coal-fired electricity. 
  • Coal also causes a range of health problems. Around the world, it’s responsible for more than 800,000 premature deaths a year.
  • If both phases of the Vista coal mine expansion go ahead, it could result in the extraction of up to 15 MT of coal per year. Burning this much coal overseas would produce 33 MT of carbon — the same amount of GHG emissions as driving more than 7,000,000 passenger vehicles for one year.
  • By comparison, the largest single source of carbon in Canada is currently the Sundance Thermal Electric Power Generating Plant, a coal plant in Alberta that emits 12.7 MT of CO2 a year. Emissions from the expanded Vista coal mine would be nearly three times this amount.


Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents 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.