Thursday, March 22, 2012

Next week’s Canadian budget will be good for mining, oilsands

The Canadian federal budget due to be released next week will please miners and the oil patch and is likely to make environmental groups see red, not green.

The Canadian Press reports that the budget will propose a streamlined environmental assessment process and reforms to the Fisheries Act ending federal oversight of much of Canada’s fresh water:

The package will eventually see Ottawa pay far less attention to small projects, impose time limits on major environmental hearings and pull out of the process altogether if a province is ready to step in with similar standards.

The latter became an issue with Taseko Mines’ Prosperity project in northern BC, when the provincial government approved the mine after conducting an environmental assessment process, only to have the mine rejected by the federal government based on its own environmental review. That project is currently undergoing a second environmental review.

CP quotes Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver saying ”Clearly, we need to focus our attention and reviews where they really matter — on big projects with the potential for the greatest economic and environmental impact.” The minister notes $500 billion of new energy and mining projects are at stake in the next 10 years.

Oliver came under fire from environmentalists recently when he said that green groups opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline are taking foreign money to undermine the project. Regarding reform of the Fisheries Act contained in the upcoming budget, CP reports “environmentalists and a large network of environmental scientists are furious about the idea and say Ottawa is ready to abdicate its national and international obligations to protect waterways.”