By Sean Oliver
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
After reviewing the joint review panel’s report on the proposed Grassy Mountain mine, the federal government has announced the project cannot proceed.
The review panel submitted its report to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson back in June, with recommendations not to approve the metallurgical coal project.
On Friday, the minister’s office said the project would likely cause “significant adverse environmental effects” that “are not justified in the circumstances.”
Specifically, Minister Wilkinson said Grassy Mountain failed to meet environmental regulations laid out in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The minister decided the mine’s economic benefit did not justify the risk to surface water quality, westslope cutthroat trout, whitebark pine, and the physical and cultural heritage of the local First Nations.
Piikani Nation and Stoney Nakoda Nations, however, have joined Benga Mining in challenging the review panel’s decision, saying the panel made errors in its decision process that did not permit fair procedure. All three have filed for permission to appeal, with a legal hearing scheduled for Sept. 30.
In its own Aug. 9 press release, Benga said the minister ignored its request to postpone his decision while the company and First Nations pursued legal avenues of appeal that they were entitled to.
“By ignoring Benga’s legitimate request that he hold his decision in abeyance whilst the legal appeal process runs its course, the minister has ridden roughshod over the legal rights of Benga, Piikani Nation and Stoney Nakoda Nations,” said John Wallington, Benga’s CEO.
Mr. Wallington added that Grassy Mountain’s federal rejection could adversely affect future investment in Canada as the “regulatory regime is uncertain.”
“To be denied due legal process, after investing hundreds of millions of dollars and diligently meeting all regulatory requirements over five years in the lead-up to the JRP hearing, is very concerning,” he said.
The company continues to seek legal counsel regarding the future of Grassy Mountain and has 30 days to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision.
Sean Oliver is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the SHOOTIN’ THE BREEZE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.