Two First Nations to oppose Coalspur’s Vista coal mine project

Two First Nation communities in the Canadian province of Alberta announced June 26 a joint campaign to stop Coalspur Mines Ltd.‘s (ASX: CPL and TSX: CPT) proposed Vista coal mine project – the first of four stages in a massive open pit operation.

Whitefish Lake First Nation and Ermineskin Cree Nation, representing several thousand people in northern and central Alberta, have joined forces and said they will mobilize resources to try and stop the proposed project.

Speaking for this campaign, Ermineskin Chief Craig Makinaw called the Vista proposal “misguided, as well as politically and environmentally dangerous.” He added that, “at a time when the Government of Alberta is trying so hard to position itself as a responsible steward of the environment, why would it even consider allowing the destruction of 470 sq/km, much of which is pristine wilderness, just to help a foreign firm extract the dirtiest fuel on the planet? Grizzly Bears, elk, and other wildlife will be seriously impacted by a project of this size.  It’s just not worth it.”

Royalties to the Alberta government from coal mining are small, the tribal groups argued. Alberta is facing a worker shortage. So neither jobs nor royalties are logical reasons to permit this operation, they said.

The campaign to stop Coalspur will start with an international awareness campaign to ensure media and the general public in Canada, Australia and abroad are fully aware of Coalspur’s plans. Then, a government lobbying plan will commence. Finally, if needed, any and all legal and other grassroots “on the ground” actions will be initiated to slow Coalspur’s progress to a halt, the groups said.

Coalspur advances Vista project under revamped plan

Coalspur said June 19 that its board has approved the development plan for its Vista coal mine project. The development plan for Phase 1 of Vista involves:

  • Constructing and commissioning a six million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) capacity thermal coal facility by mid-2015, with the capability to expand to 12 Mtpa;
  • A development capital cost of C$458m, with a lump sum turn-key contract covering US$221m (about C$226m) of this expenditure; and
  • Constructing the 6 Mtpa facility in one stage as opposed to the previously envisaged two stages.

This final Phase 1 facility and design is consistent with Coalspur’s regulatory application for Vista Phase 1, which is currently under final review with the Alberta regulators.

Coalspur President and CEO Gill Winckler said: “We are extremely pleased with the Development Plan that the Board has approved as it significantly enhances shareholder value. Shareholders will benefit from reduced capital requirements and a faster production ramp up than previously contemplated. Furthermore, being able to construct the facility in one stage as opposed to the previously envisaged two stages provides for more effective project execution and delivery.”

The regulatory approval process is taking longer than anticipated, however the review process is in its final stages and the company said it remains confident that it will be able to commence construction in the coming months and deliver first coal in mid 2015.

Among the approvals Coalspur is seeking is from the Canadian Transportation Agency for the construction of a rail siding. CN Rail is advancing these discussions with CTA and a decision is expected in early third quarter 2013.

Vista covers about 10,000 hectares and would produce thermal coal. CN Rail’s main line, located adjacent to Vista, is substantially underutilized and would provide for the transport of coal to deepwater ports on Canada’s west coast. Coalspur has secured a port allocation agreement with Ridley Terminals Inc., which is essential to the logistics supply chain necessary to export this coal to meet growing demand from Pacific Rim countries, including China, Japan and South Korea.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.