The public hearing for a proposed mega oilsands project north of Fort McMurray is now underway.
A joint review panel started the inquiry for Teck Resource’s Frontier project on Tuesday at MacDonald Island Park.
Teck’s Senior Vice President of Energy Kieron McFadyen kicked presented their opening statement which focused on consultation with Indigenous communities and their environmental priorities.
He says the project would follow in the footsteps of Suncor’s new Fort Hills site and be a leader when it comes to focusing equally on their economic and environmental impacts.
“The Frontier project will be part of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions among oilsands in Canada.”
McFadyen also mentioned their carbon intensity will be lower than half of the oil currently being refined in the United States.
The project would also use less water from the Athabasca River.
“Frontier will be among the lowest of water usage from rivers using an average of 1.9 barrels of river water per barrel,” he added.
The average oilsands use around 2.5 barrels of river water per barrel of bitumen.
Teck also plans to reclaim the land almost immediately after mining, dewater their fluid tailings resulting in their being no tailings on the site within two years after the end of mining, and support plans on protecting the Wood Buffalo National Park and the animals living there.
Meanwhile, since being first approved – Teck has met over 350 times with Indigenous communities.
McFadyen says they’ve also committed around $24 million worth of contracts to First Nation and Métis companies and plan to hire Indigenous workers throughout the RMWB, including fly-in workers from Fort Chipewyan.
Chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation Archie Waquan tells Mix News the oil giant has been very open with them when it came to discussing the project
“They’re not holding anything back, they’re really forefront in what they mean and that’s the reason why I think First Nations, Métis, and all groups affected by the developments have signed off.”
The oil giant says they’ve come to agreements with all 14 impacted Indigenous communities.
Waquan notes they felt comfortable enough with the company’s plans moving forward.
“It took a lot of meetings, there was a lot of sitting down at the regulatory table – to come across some of our concerns and we still have concerns, don’t discount that.”
He wouldn’t go into details about the concerns, only saying they focused more on the provincial government and the consultation process.
Teck says they intend to keep an open dialogue with each group throughout the lifespan of Frontier.
Despite plans to work on protecting the environment and consult with Indigenous groups, some are still against the project.
Climate Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada Mike Hudema believes the project has big problems that Teck can’t fully solve.
“We’re talking about a project that would raise the greenhouse gas emissions already booming in Alberta, we’re talking about displacing and clearcutting an area twice the size of Vancouver, we’re talking about a new toxic tailings lake, and of course the project is right on the edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.”
He adds he’s hoping to see the Alberta Energy Regulator scrap the project.
The public hearing is expected to take around five weeks to complete. Teck has sworn in 26 witnesses and experts who are prepared to discuss all the issues and concerns being brought forward.
After this, multiple organizations and groups will get a chance to share their thoughts.