CALGARY/TERRITORIES OF THE NIITSITAPI (BLACKFOOT) AND PEOPLES OF TREATY 7, INCLUDING THE SIKSIKA, PIIKUNI, KAINAI, TSUUT’INA AND STONEY NAKODA FIRST NATIONS, INCLUDING CHINIKI, BEARSPAW AND WESLEY FIRST NATIONS, HOME TO MÉTIS NATION OF ALBERTA, REGION III – Alberta- and BC-based environmental and grassroots Indigenous groups are pleased that Montem Resource’s Tent Mountain coal mine project will require a federal environmental assessment.
The Tent Mountain project, which straddles the border between British Columbia and Alberta, is located in the southwest region of the province, 16 km west of the town of Coleman, Alta., in the Crowsnest Pass. On June 28th, Federal Minister Jonathan Wilkinson designated the project for a federal impact assessment because of the potential for the Project to cause adverse effects within federal jurisdiction, as well as adverse impacts on the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
A number of First Nations and groups based in Alberta, BC and the United States requested that the project be designated for Federal review. The original request was made by the Kainai/Blood Tribe and Siksika Nations, citing significant impact to their traditional lands, rights and waters. Subsequent requests came from Ecojustice on behalf of clients CPAWS Southern Alberta, Livingstone Landowners Group and Niisitapi Water Protectors. Supportive designation requests were also filed by Member of Parliament Heather McPherson, the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative, the Alberta Wilderness Association, and two local ranching families. British Columbia-based conservation organization Wildsight also submitted a designation request, supporting the argument that because of the cross-boundary nature of the project, a federal assessment is required. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also requested the project be designated due to concerns about the cross border nature of the project and likelihood for impacts in the Elk Valley Watershed — especially from selenium pollution — which eventually drains into the United States. The Blood Tribe/Kainai has also recently released a community update reiterating their opposition to any proposed coal developments in Alberta and the Elk Valley.
In his decision the Minister concluded that the adverse impacts of the project would not be fully addressed through project design or standard mitigation or evaluated effectively through a single provincial assessment. The decision to require a federal assessment was informed by the likelihood of the project to have potential effects to transboundary environments, Indigenous peoples, and fish and fish habitat, especially given the uncertainty around the effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures for release of selenium and other deleterious substances.
Spokespeople for CPAWS, Ecojustice, the Livingstone Landowners Group, Niitsitapi Water Protectors and Wildsight issued the following statements:
David Khan, Ecojustice lawyer, said:
“The Tent Mountain coal mine threatens clean water, the climate and Indigenous rights. Straddling the B.C. and Alberta border, this mine is part of a suite of intensive coal development projects proposed for the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains — projects Ecojustice’s clients fear will cause irreversible, devastating harm to this region. That’s why, on behalf of our clients, Ecojustice applauds Minister Wilkinson’s decision to designate Tent Mountain for an impact assessment. This process would allow the federal government to understand the full risks of the project and make an informed decision on whether it is in Canadians’ best interests to let the Tent Mountain coal project proceed.”
Katie Morrison, Conservation Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter, said:
“We are pleased to see that the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change is following through on statements he has made in recent weeks; that he will designate any new coal mine proposal that has the potential to release selenium into the water given the uncertainty of existing mitigation measures. This is an important recognition of this incredibly important issue that will affect any new coal proposal in the Rocky Mountains.”
Bobbi Lambright, Spokesperson from Livingstone Landowners Group, said:
“This is another critically important milestone decision with respect to coal mining in the Eastern Slopes. The Minister’s decision to designate Tent Mountain acknowledges the significant risk associated with open pit coal mining in the heart of our headwaters area. We are very pleased with the designation.”
Latasha Calf Robe, Co-Lead, Niitsítapi Water Protectors, said:
“We are grateful the Minister has honoured the Blood Tribe & Siksika Nations’ initial requests for a federal review of Tent Mountain. Protecting Indigenous rights needs to be a priority and we are hopeful that the federal assessment will centre First Nations concerns about the project.”
Randal Macnair, Elk Valley Conservation Coordinator with Wildsight said:
“We are happy to see the decision to designate Tent Mountain for a federal assessment addresses the transboundary nature of the project and the inability of any one province to properly assess the effects of the entire project on both sides of the border. Tent Mountain is one of at least 12 coal mine proposals or projects in the Canadian Rockies that could have major downstream impacts. Selenium contamination is already a major issue in the Elk Valley and it is important that the impacts of this project on that watershed are captured through the federal assessment.”
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 precedentsetting 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.
CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter: The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s voice for wilderness. We are a non-profit environmental organization working to protect half of Canada’s public land and water. Since 1967, CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter has led conservation efforts to protect areas in Banff National Park, Kananaskis, the Whaleback and the Castle. Our chapter is also a leader in environmental education, offering award-winning programs to help build the next generation of environmental stewards.
Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) represents landowners and supporters of the Livingstone-Porcupine Hills area in southwest Alberta, some of the most biodiverse and sensitive ecosystems in the province. Our mission is to promote responsible planning, use and protection of the rare and irreplaceable land and water resources.
Niitsítapi Water Protectors (NWP) is a grassroots collective of Niitsítapi water and land protectors. NWP’s mission is to protect the water and land within the traditional and treaty lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy. NWP was formed in response to the threat of coal development projects within Blackfoot traditional territory and the headwaters of the Oldman River.
Wildsight is a BC-based grassroots organization dedicated to protecting biodiversity, encouraging sustainable communities, and providing Environmental Education programs in Canada’s Columbia and Rocky Mountain regions. For more than 30 years, Wildsight has worked with industry, the scientific and teaching community as well as all levels of government to achieve our vision of clean and clear water, thriving and sustainable communities, and extensive and connected wild spaces for wildlife.
Thais Freitas, communications specialist
email@example.com, 1-800-926-7744 ext. 277
CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter
Katie Morrison, conservation director
Livingstone Landowners Group
Bobbi Lambright, spokesperson
Niitsítapi Water Protectors
Latasha Calf Robe, co-lead
Randal Macnair, Elk Valley conservation coordinator