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Massive new tar sands project in Alberta: What you need to know

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At the end of this month, the Canadian government will decide whether to approve or reject the Teck Frontier open-pit tar sands mine, which would be Canada’s largest ever tar sands mine.

Last summer a joint review panel (made up of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Alberta Energy Regulator) assessed the project and issued the following finding: the mine would cause “irreversible” impacts to the environment and significant adverse effects for Indigenous Peoples. Nevertheless, it recommended that the project go ahead in the public interest, for economic reasons.

Here’s what you need to know about the project:

It’s massive

  • The mine would measure 29 000 hectares, equivalent to twice the size of Vancouver.
  • It would produce 260 000 barrels of oil (40 million litres) a day.
  • 6 million tonnes of CO2 would be emitted every year until 2067 (a 41 year operational life), which would make it impossible for Canada to reach its Paris Agreement objectives.

Destroyed or lost: ancient forests, wetlands, peat bogs, endangered species

  • 14 000 hectares of wetlands destroyed.
  • 3 000 hectares of ancient forests razed.
  • 3 000 hectares of peat bogs lost.
  • The mine would be located 25 km from the Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site protected for its cultural value and biodiversity.
  • The assessment found that there would be habitat loss for numerous boreal forest species, including endangered species, for at least 100 years after the mine is decommissioned.

Adverse effects on Indigenous Peoples

  • The rights of the region’s Indigenous Peoples to use the land and its resources would be undermined, and their traditional lifestyle and culture would suffer.
  • Communities downstream from the project are already seeing repercussions within their traditional territory.

The project’s profitability is by no means guaranteed

  • The British Columbia company proposing the project, Teck Resources, based its economic analysis on oil prices not seen since 2014. There is a great deal of evidence showing that oil prices will not be high enough to make the project economically viable. Canada (i.e. taxpayers) may therefore find itself in a situation where it would need to subsidize an unprofitable mine.
  • TECK Resources itself has expressed doubts about the profitability of its mine.

It’s not easy to trust TECK Resources

  • TECK Resources has failed to show that it would be able to cover the rehabilitation costs once the mine is closed. These costs could total $3 billion.
  • Its BC facility has encountered systemic pollution problems.
  • It had been in court for 11 years after spilling 400 tonnes a day of toxic products into the Columbia River.

Alberta mine projects

  • Teck Frontier would add to Alberta’s existing 150 mine projects.
  • In total, they cover an area measuring 500 km2.
  • They use 110 million cubic metres of water each year.
  • The toxic tailings ponds left by these mines total 250 km2.


In the context of a climate crisis, where all countries must drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, there is no place for a new tar sands project in Alberta. Canada has committed to attaining net zero emissions in 2050. It’s high time that the government’s decisions with regards to the fossil fuel industry reflect the country’s emissions reductions goals.

Here is what you can do:

  • Sign and share the petition
  • Contact your MP to tell him/her to reject the Teck Frontier project (you can find the phone numbers and addresses of the constituency offices here).
  • Call your MP.
  • Bring this document with all the necessary information to his/her constituency office by February 14.