Alberta Wilderness Ass’n v. Cardinal River Coals Ltd.

Environmental Impact Assessment
Mining Coal mining

Alberta Wilderness Ass’n v. Cardinal River Coals Ltd. [1999] 3 FC 425 
April 8, 1999

A coalition of conservation organizations challenged a ministry decision allowing a coal mine to be constructed just outside the boundary of a national park.  One of the questions the court considered was whether the environmental assessment prepared prior to the decision adequately considered the potential environmental impacts of the mine — including cumulative impacts.  

The coal mine, known as the Cheviot Coal Project, was proposed for an area in the eastern Rocky Mountains of Canada where extensive timber harvesting had occurred, three coal mines were already in operation, two new coal mines had recently been approved, and other mining projects were in conceptual stages. 

The Federal Court criticized the environmental assessment review panel for failing to obtain and analyze information about existing and proposed forestry and mining activities in the area surrounding the Cheviot Coal Project, stating that the information was readily available and that the panel had a duty to consider the combined impacts of mining and timber harvesting during the environmental assessment process.  The court declared: “with respect to the two [coal mining] projects for which permits have been granted and the five projects which have received approvals in principle, I find that the Joint Review Panel breached its duty to obtain all available information about likely mining in the vicinity of the project, to consider this information with respect to cumulative environmental effects, to reach conclusions and make recommendations about this factor, and to substantiate these conclusions and recommendations in [its] report.”  Id., Part B.2.  The court made similar findings concerning the panel’s failure to evaluate the combined impacts of the Cheviot Coal Project and timber harvest activities in the vicinity.  Id., Part B.1.  Because the environmental assessment did not meet legal requirements, the Court quashed the authorization granted to construct the coal mine.  

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