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Government of Canada Releases Final Decision on the Sukunka Coal Mine Project

Press Release

From: Impact Assessment Agency of Canada

December 21, 2022

The Government of Canada recognizes the mining sector as an important economic driver in Canada. However, mining projects can sometimes have significant adverse environmental effects – effects that matter to Canadians. In these instances, the government must take specific and targeted actions to protect the environment and its wildlife for future generations.

After careful deliberation, the Government of Canada has determined the significant adverse environmental effects of the proposed Sukunka Coal Mine Project, an open-pit metallurgical coal mine located near Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia, could not be mitigated.  The project therefore cannot proceed.

Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, issued a Decision Statement to this effect under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

In keeping with the principle of “one project, one assessment” and the substitution provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding, the project assessment was conducted by British Columbia on behalf of the Government of Canada. The project underwent a thorough and science-based environmental assessment, which included extensive and meaningful consultations with the public and Indigenous groups. The review benefited from Indigenous knowledge, feedback received during public consultations, and scientific and technical expertise from federal departments. In making the determination on the project, Minister Guilbeault took into account the conclusions of British Columbia’s Assessment Report.

British Columbia’s Assessment Report concluded the project would have adverse impacts across a number of areas related to:

  •  Southern Mountain caribou (Quintette herd) and its critical habitat (a species listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act);
  • Grizzly bear due to increased mortality (a species listed as one of special concern under the Species at Risk Act);
  • The discharge of mercury and selenium into local waterbodies; and
  • The physical and cultural heritage, current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes and health and socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples, related to the above effects.

This decision does not prevent Glencore, or other proponents, from submitting new project proposals and does not preclude other potential developments. Potential future proposals would be assessed in accordance with the Impact Assessment Act, which came into force in August 2019.

The Government of Canada would like to thank all the participants for their invaluable comments received throughout the review process, as well as all the scientific advice and Indigenous knowledge received from various experts. This information resulted in a robust and thorough environmental assessment, and with supportive evidence, the government was well-positioned to make an informed decision on the project.

Quotes

“The scientific evidence gathered in assessing this project showed that its negative impacts were significant and could not be mitigated. While encouraging sustainable resource development, Canadians expect the Government of Canada to take concrete actions to protect our country’s natural landscapes, its people and wildlife today and for the generations that follow.”

– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Quick facts

  • Glencore proposed the construction and operation of an open-pit metallurgical coal mine located approximately 55 kilometres south of Chetwynd and 40 kilometres west of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia. The project would have produced three million tonnes of hard coking coal per year for export to overseas markets.
  • The Sukunka Coal Mine Project is one of several mining projects proposed in British Columbia over the last decade, with nine such projects currently undergoing a federal review. Many mining projects have been approved in B.C. under the federal assessment process, including the Brucejack Gold Mine Project (2015), the Kemess Underground Project (2017), and the Red Mountain Underground Gold Project (2019).
  • Consultations with Indigenous groups throughout the environmental assessment were extensive. British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office carried out consultation with eleven Indigenous groups on behalf of the Government of Canada as part of the process, with nearly $392,000 in federal funding allocated to support their participation in the various steps of the review.

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Contacts

Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-230-1557
[email protected]

Media Relations
Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
343-549-3870
[email protected]

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