Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. The federal government is bringing in a new coal policy saying new or expanded thermal coal mines create unacceptable environmental impacts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. The federal government is bringing in a new coal policy saying new or expanded thermal coal mines create unacceptable environmental impacts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

‘Unacceptable environmental effects:’ New federal policy restricts thermal coal

Policy puts another roadblock in front of Coalspur Mines and its Alberta Vista mine expansion

The federal government is making it more difficult to develop thermal coal in Canada with a new policy that says all such mines create “unacceptable environmental effects.”

The move erects another roadblock for Coalspur Mines and its Vista mine expansion in Alberta, the only such mine in Canada currently before regulators.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathon Wilkinson said the move was made because of the need to stop burning coal for power — the single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the world.

“Phasing out thermal coal is the most critical climate change issue right now,” he said.

The policy, released Friday, does not rule out such development. But approvals will be tough to get.

“The government of Canada considers that any new thermal coal mining projects, or expansions of existing thermal coal mines in Canada, are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects,” it says. “This position will inform federal decision making on thermal coal projects.”

It says the federal cabinet must consider sustainability and climate change in weighing any new projects, regardless of size.

“What we’re saying is this is something that does not fit from a public policy perspective,” Wilkinson said. “A proponent can continue on through the process, but that’s a pretty high bar to surmount.”

Coalspur’s Vista mine expansion project near Hinton, Alta., which would be the largest thermal coal mine in North America, has filed an application to the provincial regulator. Wilkinson has ruled the project should face a federal environmental assessment, although Coalspur is challenging that decision in court.

The company has been informed the new policy will apply to it, Wilkinson said. He added the policy gives more certainty to other companies considering similar projects.

Wilkinson said he believes the new policy lies within federal power despite its impact on natural resources, a provincial jurisdiction.

“We’re comfortable this is something within our purview to do,” he said. “The vast, vast, vast majority of Canadians would think that this is something that’s a no-brainer.”

Canada is a founding member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of countries trying to reduce the use of thermal coal around the globe. Wilkinson said permitting new mines would harm Canada’s efforts in that forum.

“We’ve been the leader in the international community telling other countries that they should be phasing out thermal coal — and then we approve new thermal coal mines? People would say that doesn’t make any sense.”

The new policy does not affect metallurgical coal, the type of coal found in most of the controversial new coal exploration projects in the Alberta foothills.

The federal government has been asked to step in on many of those projects. Wilkinson has until July 1 to decide if he will request a federal assessment for Montem Resource’s Tent Mountain mine.

Wilkinson called emissions from steelmaking a different issue.

“(Thermal coal) is a short-term issue,” he said.

“Our commitment with other countries is to help them phase out (coal) nine years from now. That’s not much time.”

Canada has promised to phase out the burning of coal for power by 2030.

—Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Community involvement key to safe, reclaimable coal mines: industry scientists

energy sector

Just Posted

Work has begun on the $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp. File photo
Work begins on Slocan Valley fibre-optic line

The $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line runs from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

Jade Osecki leading a Fridays for Future climate march in Nelson in 2020. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Grade 12 student Jade Osecki wins Suzy Hamilton Award

Carolyn Schramm was also honoured in this year’s environmental award for West Kootenay women

Photo courtesy of Mercer Celgar
Mercer Celgar to install new technology thanks to $4.5 million in federal funds

Project features process to improve fibre processing and address regional fibre availability issues

Asian clams versus native B.C. clams comparison. Photo: Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society
Invasive Asian Clams found in Pend D’Oreille River

Watercraft users and anglers are urged to clean, drain and dry gear

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read