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Minister's Response

Date: July 30, 2020

Projects:

Coalspur Mine (Operations) Ltd. proposes the Vista Coal Underground Mine Project and the Vista Coal Mine Phase II Expansion Project, to expand the existing Vista Coal Mine Phase I Project; an open-pit thermal coal mine. The expansions would be located approximately 10 kilometres east of Hinton, Alberta.

Decision:

The Minister previously considered the Vista Coal Mine Phase II Expansion Project for designation pursuant to the Impact Assessment Act, and on December 20, 2019, determined that the Project did not warrant designation. In light of the reasons provided below, the Minister is reconsidering that decision and has decided to designate the physical activities associated with the Vista Coal Mine Phase II Expansion Project along with the Vista Coal Underground Mine Project.

Reasons:

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has considered the potential for the Projects to cause adverse effects within federal jurisdiction, adverse direct or incidental effects, public concern related to these effects, as well as adverse impacts on Aboriginal and Treaty rights. The Minister also considered the analysis of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

The Minister has reached the decision that designation of the Projects is warranted for the following reasons:

  • Considered together, the area of mining operations for the Projects would be just below the 50 percent threshold, and at 18,683 tonnes per day, well above the total coal production capacity threshold of 5,000 tonnes per day described in Item 19(a) of the Physical Activities Regulations;
  • The Minister considered his previous decision regarding the Vista Coal Mine Phase II Expansion Project, the new information regarding plans for further expansion of the Vista Coal Mine Phase I Project (the Vista Coal Underground Mine), and additional Indigenous and public concerns received regarding the Projects. The Minister acknowledges that, cumulatively, the Projects may result in adverse effects of greater magnitude to those previously considered. In particular:
    • The Projects may cause adverse direct and cumulative effects to areas of federal jurisdiction (in particular to fish and fish habitat, species at risk, and Indigenous peoples) that may not be mitigated through project design or the application of standard mitigation measures;
    • The concerns expressed by the requesters, Indigenous groups, federal authorities, and members of the public that, cumulatively, the Projects may cause potential adverse effects within federal jurisdiction or adverse direct or incidental effects (such as effects to fish and fish habitat, and Indigenous peoples); and,
    • The Projects may cause adverse impacts on Aboriginal and Treaty rights (such as hunting, fishing and gathering) recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and matters related to Indigenous peoples within federal jurisdiction.
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