Oil sands cover Thornhill MP’s riding
Can you picture Thornhill, Ontario, swallowed up by Alberta’s oil sands?
Four environmental groups would like you — and Canada’s new environment minister, Peter Kent — to imagine just that by creating a new online mapping tool.
The visualization tool, similar to one created after the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, allows users to overlay an oil sands project on any chosen location in the world.
But because Mr. Kent’s home riding is Thornhill, that is the map’s default setting.
The environmentalists hope that the red outline, covering a large portion of southern York Region and centred on the community of Thornhill, will give Mr. Kent a sense of the size and scale of the controversial tar sands.
“We launched this tool to show people just how massive the tar sands projects are and just how much more destruction will be caused if the government doesn’t start saying ‘no’ to these multi-national oil giants,” said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner.
The joint federal and provincial review panel released its conditional approval for the mine Thursday, saying the project would have “no significant adverse effect” on wildlife and water quality provided the company complies with 20 conditions relating to technical and environmental aspects.
Environmental groups condemned the approval.
Sheila Muxlow, director of Sierra Club Prairie, said the mine, which is set to start operations in 2017, would pump billions of litres of toxic waste each year into a giant new tailings pond and destroy 7,000 hectares of boreal forest while spewing 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year.
The map shows the Joslyn oil sands mine that is proposed for north of Fort McMcMurry, along with all current mine sites and the total leasable area for mining.
Sheila Muxlow, director of Sierra Club Prairie, said the proposed new mine would pump billions of litres of toxic waste each year into a giant new tailings pond and destroy 7,000 hectares of boreal forest, while spewing 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year.
“With this online tool, we can provide a simple reality check about the damage already caused by tar sands and why it is important not to make the problems worse by approving another massive open-pit mine,” added Dustin Johnson, energy campaigner with Sierra Club Prairie.
Ms Muxlow said the environmentalists have sent the mapping tool, along with an outline of their concerns, to Mr. Kent, but have not had a response.
Mr. Kent did not respond to The Liberal’s request for an interview.
The Thornhill Conservative MP was promoted earlier this month to the hot-button environment portfolio. He has already come under fire from environmental groups for attempting to clean up the Alberta oil sands’ reputation, referring to the product as “ethical oil” and “not nearly the product that has been demonized”.