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AWA joins Kainai, Siksika Nations call for federal impact assessment on Tent mine

The Alberta Wilderness Association has joined southern Alberta’s two largest First Nations’ call for the federal government to step in and halt coal mining in the Rockies. 

Earlier this month, the Kainai and Siksika nations called on the feds to impose a federal impact assessment on the Tent Mountain Coal Mine Project. 

They argued Australian-based company Montem Resources is exploiting a loophole that requires 5,000 tonnage production capacity required for a federal impact assessment, which the project falls just 75 tonnes under, an argument the AWA agrees with. 

“The distinction between a coal mine producing 4,925 tonnes per day and one producing 5,000 tonnes per day is a distinction without a difference,” AWA conservation director Ian Urquhart said in a March 31 statement expressing support for the Kainai and Siksika position. “It amounts to only one-quarter of one truckload of coal.”

Kainai Chief Roy Fox told Global News a review of the project from the Alberta Energy Regulator is “insufficient to appropriately identify the impacts to areas of federal jurisdiction, including on Kainai’s rights,” because it’s not authorized to consider constitutional questions in its deliberations.

Siksika Chief Ouray Crowfoot said the project’s proximity to the federal assessment threshold and increase of coal projects along the Alberta-B.C. border are sufficient reasons for the feds to get involved.  

Both leaders said the encroachment of resource extraction on their traditional lands makes it increasingly difficult for them to conduct their spiritual practices. 

An AWA news release notes the government has the ability to order an assessment under the federal Impact Assessment Act if the project could “cause adverse effects within federal jurisdiction or adverse direct or incidental effects,” there is major public concern about the project, or if it would negatively impact Indigenous peoples, arguing the Tent project meets all three criteria.

Climate considerations and the impact of mining on several species at risk, including grizzly bear, whitebark pine, and westslope cutthroat trout — are adverse effects that fall under federal jurisdiction, the AWA argues. 

“This reality will not be considered adequately in a provincial assessment process,” said Urquhart. “The wildlife and water quality effects of this project also are transboundary; they affect more than just the province of Alberta.” 

Last week, NDP MP Heather McPherson — Alberta’s sole non-Conservative MP — tabled a petition with thousands of signatures in the House of Commons calling in part on the governing Liberals to freeze new coal developments, arguing the provincial government has failed in its Charter duty to consult with First Nations.

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