The National Coalition of Chiefs expresses its support to the proposed Teck Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project and calls upon the federal government to approve it without further delay.
The Frontier project will bring many economic benefits to the Indigenous peoples of the Athabasca region, to Alberta, and to Canada. The Frontier mine is notable for its extensive consultation and negotiation of participation agreements with the 14 First Nations and Metis communities that will be impacted by the project. The Joint Review Panel evaluating the project declared that in their “experience, the extent of agreement between Teck and Indigenous groups is unprecedented for an oil sands development of this type.”
The National Coalition of Chiefs shares the concerns of those who want to see environmental impacts of the Frontier project mitigated. However we defer to the judgment of the 14 affected First Nations and Metis communities. They are the most impacted by this new project but have determined that the economic benefits to their people outweigh the environmental risks. In addition to the regulatory standards and burdens place on the project by the Alberta and Canadian governments, the 14 communities have outlined their concerns for the lands, water and animals of their traditional territories and, in partnership with Teck, will work to ensure these are addressed and mitigated. If these nations, with the most at stake, have found the risks to be acceptable, then the rest of us should be satisfied as well.
It has taken 10 years for the Frontier project to get approval from the Joint Review Panel. They determined in their over 1300 page assessment of the project that “importing oil from other countries while forgoing the economic benefits of developing Alberta’s resources does not appear to be in the public interest”. That has been the position of oil and gas producing and transmitting First Nations for many years: that so long as there is a demand for oil, then First Nations should have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from supplying it. Doing so also allows First Nations to have a say in the environmental, health and safety processes of such projects.
Economic development is a human right, and poverty is the source of so many of our nations’ challenges. Employment, business contracts and own source revenues are necessary to defeat that poverty and the hopelessness it creates. The Frontier project will provide economic opportunity for many Indigenous people and communities. The National Coalition of Chiefs is proud to support it and calls upon the federal government to do the same.