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BACKGROUNDER: Cheviot Mine

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

Sierra Club of Canada/MiningWatch Canada

First proposed in 1996 and reviewed by federal-provincial hearings in 1997 and 2000, Cheviot was not developed due its poor economics and public opposition. Now the company has commenced a different and potentially more destructive mine project. In 1997, Ottawa papers reported that the federal government had delayed their decision on Cheviot while they "worked on a strategy to sell the controversial project to the public."? Since then, the federal government has failed to work on the request of the UN's World Heritage Committee that alternatives to Cheviot be found. Up until now, they have failed to at least conduct a full environmental review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act of the new mine project.

SCC and MiningWatch are also embarking on actions to alert Ontario teachers to the fact that their investment is about to irreparably harm a World Heritage Site, silence springs at Mountain Park and destroy prime grizzly bear habitat in Alberta where there are only 685 grizzlies left. They are doing this through collaboration with the Sierra Youth Coalition's It's Our Future campaign, which focuses on the OTPP and their coal investments.

The conservation coalition's coordinator and SCC's Alberta Wilderness Director, Dianne Pachal, has maintained from the outset in 1996, "This is not an issue of jobs versus the environment. It's a matter short-term jobs from a non-renewable resource versus long-term jobs. Once Mountain Park is irreparably destroyed, the grizzly bear and migratory bird habitat gone, and the mine with its 120 jobs closed in 15 years or less, then what for Hinton and Cadomin? Steel-making coal and mined-over landscapes are not a scarce commodity, but wildland parks, World Heritage Sites and critical wildlife habitat are. Better to answer 'then what' now, while we've still got this outstanding wildland and options for an environmentally sustainable future."?

Despite the parent companies' April 2003 announcement that they wouldn't be going ahead with Cheviot, they later proceeded with plans for a different mine project. Rather than the self-contained mine that was previously reviewed by a federal-provincial panel, they are pushing ahead with developing Cheviot as a satellite of their Luscar mine located 22 kms to the north.

Despite the facts that the area of the proposed mine is public land and the coal beneath is a public resource, in Alberta only those with private property rights or livelihoods directly affected can appeal provincial permits issued for developments on public land. Hence, the coalition is assisting Ben Gadd, author of the Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, with his appeal. He is appealing the provincial permits issued last December for the haulroad portion of the new mine. His business includes natural history tours of the wildland now slated for the mine development. That hearing process will commence April 26th in front of the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board.