- Category: news
- Created: Monday, 19 August 2013 13:50
- Published: Monday, 19 August 2013 13:50
- Written by Administrator 3
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BY MARTY KLINKENBERG, EDMONTON JOURNAL
Arguing that development could imperil a herd of wood bison, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation will argue Monday against an exploratory winter drilling program in northern Alberta.
The band maintains that drilling associated with Teck Resources’ proposed Frontier oilsands project will disrupt land vital to the survival of the Ronald Lake bison herd, which natives consider to be culturally significant and rely upon for sustenance.
The Frontier project is a proposed truck-and-shovel mine about 100 kilometres north of Fort McMurray designed to include four production lines with a total capacity of approximately 277,00 barrels of bitumen per day. An environmental assessment in conjunction with the project is not expected to be completed until at least 2015.
While it is unusual to hold a hearing over an exploratory winter drilling program, the Alberta Energy Regulator granted the band’s request because it established under a section of the Energy Resources Conservation Act that it could be adversely affected by approval of the company’s application. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has petitioned the federal and provincial governments to set up management zones within the area to help protect wood bison and caribou herds.
Adverse affects related to oilsands development violate the First Nation’s treaty rights, the band says.
“We are looking out for the best interest of our people, our lands, our rights, and the public,” Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam said. “Our elders identified lands that were necessary for the continuation of our rights and survival of species.
“It is time government and industry listen because we are serious about asserting our rights and title to protect our territory for current and future generations.”
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday at the Chateau Nova Hotel in Fort McMurray. Arguments will be heard over 11 applications the company has filed to drill exploratory wells. The Frontier project application was submitted to regulators in November 2011. If approved, it is expected to employ up to 4,000 people during construction and 2,500 during its operation.
The area in which the project is proposed includes nearly 20 per cent of the Ronald Lake bison herd’s traditional range, information presented by the company to Alberta environment officials says. The animals could be forced out of a portion of their range and it is possible that they could be displaced further north into Wood Buffalo National Park, where wood bison are infected with brucellosis and tuberculosis.
The First Nation says the Ronald Lake herd is one of the last remaining herds that is disease free and could no longer be used as a food source if contaminated.
“We are putting our foot down,” said Eriel Deranger, a spokeswoman for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.