About 40 people attended a rally in Fort McMurray on Friday in support proposed Teck Frontier mine, with many saying the mine would provide much-needed jobs for the region.
Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. aims to build the Frontier mine about 100 kilometres north of Fort McMurray near Wood Buffalo National Park.
The mine’s total capacity would be 260,000 barrels of oil a day and Teck has said it aims to start producing oil in 2026.
The $20.6-billion mine promises about 7,000 jobs during construction and 2,500 during operation.
John Parsons, 60, was among those at Friday’s rally. He moved to Fort McMurray in the 70s for work but said there are far fewer job opportunities in the region today.
“We went through nothing but hardship in the last five years,” said Parsons.
“I worry about my children. I have six daughters and eight grandkids right now, and their future is looking pretty bleak.”
Parsons, a crane operator, said it’s been hard to find steady work.. He spent last year working in Cold Lake on a contract, but he would’ve rather been in his own home in Fort McMurray. He thinks the mine would help people working in the trades.
The mine has been controversial, with a provincial-federal panel saying it would be in the public interest, even though it’s likely to significantly harm the environment and Indigenous people.
Environmentalists have also expressed concerns about the impact on the nearby national park and some Indigenous leaders in the Northwest Territories have been fighting against the project.
Teck Resources has signed agreements with 14 Indigenous communities in the region. On Friday the Mikisew Cree First Nation released a statement offering its support for the project.
The International Union of Operating Engineers and Canada Action, a federally registered non-profit that promotes the oilsands and natural resources sector, organized the rally in Fort McMurray.
Lynn Nellis, Canada Action’s chief operating officer, spoke at the event.
“You have the support of your fellow Canadians, for the most part. I know it doesn’t look like it and it doesn’t feel like it. But when I travel they want to know what you guys are thinking.”
Nellis said all Canadians are responsible for lowering emissions in Canada, and said the onus shouldn’t just fall on industry.
“We all use energy all the time. We’re all responsible for making these changes,” said Nellis in an interview with CBC.
‘Swift and serious’
On Friday, Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon told Power & Politics the premier has been clear that “if the Frontier mine is rejected from the federal cabinet, the reaction from Alberta will be swift and serious.”
Nixon said he wouldn’t go into details, but that Alberta would “take steps to defend our province,” and that the rejection of the mine would be viewed as a “significant step back between Alberta’s relationship with the federal government.”
Nixon added that the provincial government is prepared to do “everything that needs to happen” to make sure Alberta’s energy industry has a strong future.
“That’s the lifeblood of this province and we’re not going to accept the federal government indicating to investment that there’s no future for the oilsands or for energy industry in this province. And from our perspective their decision around Frontier project could do just that.”
The federal cabinet is expected to give a decision next week.