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Regulators recommend approval of Frontier oil sands mine

Joint review panel finds proposed project by Teck is in the public interest

On July 25, a joint review panel from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) recommended approval of Teck Resources’ Frontier oil sands mine project.

Located 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, the project would consist of surface mining operations, a processing plant and associated infrastructure and support facilities. Production from the first phase could begin as early as 2026. With completion of the second phase, production is expected to be 260,000 barrels per day.

In the joint decision, the regulators noted that the project is in the public interest due to numerous economic benefits, which include:

  • 40+ years of anticipated production
  • 7,000 jobs during peak construction
  • 2,500 jobs during operation
  • $70 billion in revenue to municipal, provincial and federal governments over the project’s lifespan.

The panel determined there will be negative impacts on the environment and Indigenous communities, and therefore stipulated dozens of conditions and follow-up measures to help address these impacts that must be met before the project can go ahead.

For its part, Teck has indicated that it is committed to developing Frontier responsibly, incorporating best practices for environmental protection, tailings management, water use and managing greenhouse gases. In particular, Teck says it intends to achieve a greenhouse gas emissions intensity of about half the current oil sands industry average, and the project will include a cogeneration plant that will capture waste heat for re-use in plant processes, lowering overall emissions. Also, the company has been engaging with local Indigenous communities since the early stages of project development in 2008.

The project still needs review by provincial and federal governments. In addition, Teck has yet to make a final investment decision on Frontier.