Announcement came hours after Alberta announced it struck deal with First Nations over project
Feb 23, 2020 7:06 PM MT
Vancouver-based Teck Resources has withdrawn its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta.
The federal government was slated to make a decision on whether or not to approve the $20.6-billion, 260,000-barrel-per-day Frontier project next week.
Sources close to the project confirmed to CBC News the application was withdrawn.
"We are disappointed to have arrived at this point," CEO and president Don Lindsay wrote in a letter addressed to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, posted to the company's website Sunday evening. "Teck put forward a socially and environmentally responsible project that was industry leading and had the potential to create significant economic benefits for Canadians."
Lindsay wrote that customers want policies that reconcile resource development and climate change — something that Canada has yet to achieve.
"Unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project," he wrote.
But, he said he wanted to make it clear the company isn't shying away from controversy.
"The nature of our business dictates that a vocal minority will almost inevitably oppose specific developments. We are prepared to face that sort of opposition," he wrote. "Frontier, however, has surfaced a broader debate over climate change and Canada's role in addressing it. It is our hope that withdrawing from the process will allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward."
Following Teck's announcement, Wilkinson and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan confirmed in a joint statement that cabinet will no longer be making a decision on the project.
"As Teck has rightly pointed out, and as many in the industry know, global investors and consumers are increasingly looking for the cleanest products available and sustainable resource development," the statement read.
The ministers wrote that Teck had done leading work on Frontier, including efforts to engage with local Indigenous communities.
"Their model should be an example for all proponents of future projects," the statement read.
The news came just hours after the Alberta government announced it had struck deals with two First Nations over the proposed project, which would have been located 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
The province said the agreements with the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations address bison and caribou habitats and protect Wood Buffalo National Park.
In July 2019, a joint federal-provincial review panel recommended the mine be approved, saying the economic benefits outweighed what it described as significant adverse environmental impacts.
Teck's website states the project would have created 7,000 construction jobs, require up to 2,500 workers to operate, and bring in more than $70 billion in government revenue.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney described Teck's announcement as a grave disappointment for Albertans, but said it didn't come as a surprise.
But the project was expected to produce about four million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year over its 40 year lifespan, and disturb 292 square kilometres of pristine wetlands and boreal forest — although that whole area wouldn't be mined at once.
"The promise of Canada's potential will not be realized until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed in the context of future responsible energy sector development," Lindsay wrote. "Without clarity on this critical question, the situation that has faced Frontier will be faced by future projects and it will be very difficult to attract future investment, either domestic or foreign."
"It is what happens when governments lack the courage to defend the interests of Canadians in the face of a militant minority," Kenney said in an emailed statement, pointing to what he described as weeks of federal indecision on blockades in solidarity with those opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
"The timing of the decision is not a coincidence. This was an economically viable project, as the company confirmed this week, for which the company was advocating earlier this week, so something clearly changed very recently."
The premier wrote that the province agreed to federal requests and conditions for approving the project.
"The factors that led to the today's decision further weaken national unity.… We did our part, but the federal government's inability to convey a clear or unified position let us, and Teck, down," Kenney said.
Keith Stewart, senior energy analyst with Greenpeace Canada, said he was surprised by Teck's decision to withdraw the project but believes it is the right one.
"This project never made economic sense; it didn't make climate sense; it wasn't really going to happen," Stewart said in an interview.
"So I'm glad that we can now actually focus on real projects that will create good jobs in Alberta, across the country, fighting climate change."
Stewart said the decision is evidence that investors are increasingly not only concerned about climate change but putting their money where their mouth is.
"This was a project that might have made sense 10 years ago. It certainly doesn't today," he said.
On Friday, Teck released disappointing fourth quarter results, saying global economic uncertainty negatively impacted commodity prices.