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When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

The Kenney government plays word games as it plans to strip-mine the Rockies.

In Alberta, the government of Jason Kenney has one definition for mountaintop removal, while most people have another.

You might think that excavating the top of a mountain until it’s reduced to a series of carved away “benches” that rise like giant steps to a last shred of a mountain’s peak is “mountaintop removal.”

If so, you disagree with the Alberta government.

Here’s someone else who disagrees with the Kenney definition. Australian coal miners.

While the Kenney government claims mountaintop removal can’t happen in Alberta’s water-sensitive eastern slopes, Benga Mining, an Australian firm owned by Aussie billionaire Gina Rinehart, says that’s the technique it intends to employ — and in a joint federal-provincial hearing no less.

Last week, the Kenney government told the Narwhal in a series of emails that open-pit mining can’t be called mountaintop removal if it only removes, say, 90 per cent of a mountaintop.

By Alberta’s definition, the top of the mountain has to be “completely” removed to qualify as mountaintop removal.

The Alberta Energy Regulator and Kenney spokesperson Kavi Bal both informed the Narwhal that open-pit mining can scrape off the sides of a mountain, devein coal seams and leave a ridge a pockmarked shadow of itself after removing tonnes of toxic debris, and that’s OK: because it’s open-pit mining, and not mountaintop removal.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

‘A Monstrous Monument to Greed and Stupidity’: Critics React to Site C Decision

‘A Monstrous Monument to Greed and Stupidity’: Critics React to Site C Decision

BC Liberals accuse NDP of mismanagement; Greens warn public to brace for higher costs.

Premier John Horgan’s announcement today that the government will continue with the Site C dam despite massive budget increases and delays brought criticism from opponents and supporters of the project.

“We’ve seen mismanagement of this file,” said Tom Shypitka, the BC Liberal critic for energy, mines and low carbon innovation. “It’s a sad day for the taxpayers, but it’s a good thing to see Site C proceed for the future of British Columbians.”

Horgan announced the government will continue with the project even though the budget has grown to $16 billion, an increase he blamed largely on unexpected geotechnical issues and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now expected to be in service in 2025.

The Site C budget was $7.9 billion in 2010. When the NDP decided to continue construction in 2017 they increased the budget to $10.7 billion.

Shypitka said the cost of the dam has doubled since the NDP came to government and that the oversight committee it put in place in 2018 has clearly failed. “Under their watch, this project has gone off the rails. That’s on the NDP government.”

He rejected the idea the BC Liberals should have been more diligent before starting the project. It’s unclear how much of the delay and cost escalation can be blamed on the pandemic and how much was due to the NDP’s mismanagement, he said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Months Before Albertans Were Told, Australian Miners Knew Plans to Axe Coal Policy

Months Before Albertans Were Told, Australian Miners Knew Plans to Axe Coal Policy

Investor presentations signalled the Kenney government aimed to open protected lands to open-pit mining.

Australian mining firms seeking to strip-mine metallurgical coal in Alberta’s eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains knew well ahead of Albertans that the government was planning to rescind a law that stood in the way.

The 44-year-old Coal Policy, the result of extensive public consultation in the 1970s, kept 1.5 million hectares of Category 2 lands in the eastern slopes off limits from open-pit mining until the Jason Kenney government abruptly axed it in May of last year with no public consultation.

Alberta’s environment minister has denied that doing away with the Coal Policy “has opened up the eastern slopes for strip-mining.”

But a presentation prepared some time in 2019 by Capital Investment Partners, a firm that owns four private coal companies with extensive leases in the central Rockies, told investors: “Alberta government [is] in the process of changing the coal policy to allow more open-pit mining.”

This statement raises serious questions, said Katie Morrison, the conservation director of the Southern Alberta arm of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, who found the presentation online.

“The CIP presentation really implies that long before Albertans heard about the cancellation of the Coal Policy, the government was consulting with coal companies at the request of coal companies and for the benefit of coal companies,” Morrison told The Tyee.

She added that the presentation “is very clear that the Australians understood the cancellation as a lifting of restrictions that allowed them to mine in areas they couldn’t access before.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How the Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Actions Changed Their Live

How the Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Actions Changed Their Lives

A year later, three Indigenous youth behind the 2020 BC legislature protests say the real work still lies ahead.

It was the first week of Kolin Sutherland-Wilson’s final semester at the University of Victoria. But he wasn’t there. Instead, on a chilly January morning in 2020, he sat alone on the front steps of the British Columbia legislature, dressed warmly and holding signs that called on provincial leaders to stand with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink project in their traditional territory.

For a week, he spent all day on the steps. MLAs and staff who passed by barely glanced at him.

But soon friends, classmates and community members joined him. The growing group took on bigger actions — a ferry blockade and a sit-in at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum resources. That ended after 18 hours of occupying the building, with Sutherland-Wilson and 11 others finally carried out by Victoria police.

As the RCMP enforced an injunction on behalf of Coastal GasLink on Wet’suwet’en territory 700 kilometres northwest of Victoria, the group of Indigenous youth and allies known as the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en ramped up their efforts. In early February, the Indigenous youth locked themselves arm-in-arm at the entrance to the legislature — surrounded at one point by a thousand allies — and stayed overnight for 17 days. They forced the cancellation of B.C.’s throne speech ceremony for the first time in history.

The fountain in front of the building ran red with dye. Words written on upturned Canadian flags declared “Reconciliation is dead.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Advocates want greater oversight as a mapping project identifies more than 170 mines putting waterways at risk.

Two closed mines on islands in Babine Lake are leaking dangerous levels of copper that could be damaging the Skeena watershed’s most valuable sockeye salmon spawning lake, The Tyee has learned.

In a report due out this week, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and the Lake Babine Nation say an analysis of monitoring data from mine owner Glencore shows wastewater from the mines has included elevated levels of heavy metals, including copper contamination up to 20 times greater than provincial water quality guidelines.

It’s unclear what impact that could be having on Babine Lake’s salmon stocks, which account for 90 per cent of the Skeena watershed’s sockeye.

But Donna Macintyre, fisheries director for Lake Babine Nation, says there is clearly a threat.

“Does it affect salmon? Obviously, if we’re putting discharge into the lake, and we’ve got zooplankton that the fish depend upon for food, it will affect them,” Macintyre told The Tyee.

“We have these guidelines for copper, all of the heavy metals that are discharged into the lake, but they’re basically for human consumption. Nobody has really done major studies on fish.”

Lake Babine Nation worked with SkeenaWild to analyze data that dates back to the mines’ operation in the 1970s. But the research focused on the past 12 years since the start of Glencore’s monitoring program at the sites. The studies were done on samples of water, sediment and tissue taken from lake trout and sculpin.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

COVID-19 and bad weather have hammered Okanagan orchardists. But low prices are the biggest threat to their survival. First of two.

Between COVID-19, labour shortages and bad weather, Sukhdeep Brar has had a rough year growing apples. But as giant grocery chains drive wholesale prices down to pennies a pound, he says the struggle to keep apple production in B.C. started long before this COVID-19 pandemic.

 

India’s Farmer Movement, Indigenous Land Defenders and Hidden Histories

India’s Farmer Movement, Indigenous Land Defenders and Hidden Histories

The protests may be half-a-world apart. But they’re both based on a spiritual connection to the land.

When 250 million workers joined the largest strike in human history last month to support the Indian Kisan Andolan, or Farmer Movement, the connection to Indigenous land protests in British Columbia might not have been instantly evident.

But the two struggles have much in common in their resistance against neoliberal nation states and the corporations that influence them. They also share a hidden history that aligns the struggles in a unique field of solidarity.

Indian farmers are fighting the central government over three bills that effectively hand the agricultural market to large corporations, letting them set prices, and turn formerly independent farmers into contractors under corporate control.

Punjabi farmers have taken their protests to the border of Delhi and created blockades on highways, while farmers from other parts of India are doing the same.

The majority of Punjabis in India follow the Sikh faith. Agriculture is central not just to Punjab’s economy, but also to its culture. During the march to Delhi, police brutalized the farmers with water cannons and batons. Despite this, the farmers practiced a central tenet of the Sikh faith, langar (free kitchen) and made food available to both protestors, bystanders and police.

In B.C., a different but connected battle is being waged. Hereditary Chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en Nation have opposed TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline across northern B.C. since it was proposed. This resistance has led to demonstrations and railway blockades across Canada.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Alberta Government Fines Hunter for Trespassing on Australian Coal Lease

Alberta Government Fines Hunter for Trespassing on Australian Coal Lease

Levi Williams-Whitney traversed the land to make a video opposing open-pit mining. He has no regrets.

The Kenney government has fined an Alberta hunter $600 for making an anti-coal video, but the young man says he’s laughing.

Last October, Levi Williams-Whitney went for a gambol up Grassy Mountain just north of the town of Blairmore in Alberta’s historic Crowsnest Pass.

Much of the mountain is now owned by Benga Mining (Riversdale Resources), a firm purchased by Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart in 2019 for $700 million.

With the Kenney government’s blessings, Rinehart, an iron-ore magnate and Australia’s wealthiest woman, has proposed to reduce what is now the habitat of mountain sheep, trout and elk into a giant open-pit coal mine. (The mountain top removal project is under a joint federal-provincial review.)

Another bunch of Australian developers want to remove more than half a dozen other nearby mountains from the Rockies to also supply Asian steel markets. They, too, have the government’s enthusiastic support.

Williams-Whitney, an avid hunter and environmental student at the University of Lethbridge, wasn’t impressed with Rinehart’s plans, let alone the Alberta government’s red-carpet treatment for Australian coal miners.

“The video was my way to express some of my frustration and refine my thinking about the issues,” said Williams-Whitney who has hunted for elk in the eastern slopes for years.

So he drove an hour-and-a-half from his home in Lethbridge to the Crowsnest Pass, where underground coal mines, French coal barons and communist unions once dominated the region’s turbulent history some 100 years ago.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Privacy Commissioner Launches Investigation of RCMP Internet Unit

Privacy Commissioner Launches Investigation of RCMP Internet Unit

The probe comes after Tyee reports on Project Wide Awake and web spying. Here are some questions to pose to the force.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has launched an investigation into the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit and Project Wide Awake, the unit’s advanced web monitoring program using digital tools it kept secret.

The office is probing “the RCMP’s collection of the personal information of Canadians under Project Wide Awake,” deputy commissioner Brent Homan of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner confirmed in writing to NDP MP Charlie Angus.

Angus, a member of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, called for an investigation in a letter sent Nov. 23, following Tyee reports exposing Project Wide Awake and related programs at the RCMP.

“I have grave concerns about the level of secrecy and duplicity the RCMP has gone through to hide their activities into procuring and using these tools to gather information on Canadians,” said Angus in the letter.

He added, “I am very concerned that these internal documents appear to contradict how the force characterized Project Wide Awake to your office.”

The files obtained by The Tyee revealed that the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit requested “national security exceptions” which enable it to hide contracts for software it acquired. The force argued if the software was publicly procured, its capabilities might be defeated by people targeted for spying.

At the same time, the RCMP emphasized that its software only seeks “open source” information online, implying that its sources were only those in the public domain.

However, The Tyee investigation reveals that the force may consider any information it can acquire online, by any means, to be “open source.”

Documents show that the RCMP purchased a license for a program that “unlocks” hidden friends for Facebook users who have set their friends to be private. The provider of Web Investigation Search Tool, used by police around the world, discontinued its operation after a Tyee report.

The RCMP also listed “private communications” and those from “political protests” in a diagram of “darknet” sources, which it aimed to target with a “dark web crawler” and monitoring software.

The internal documents obtained by The Tyee also contained references to programs that appear related to digital surveillance but outside of Project Wide Awake, including ones named Cerebro, Sentinel and Search, and a reference to “expansion of biometrics”.

Here are some questions about the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit the privacy commissioner inquiry might seek to resolve:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The RCMP’s X-Men Fixation Is More Sinister than Comic

The RCMP’s X-Men Fixation Is More Sinister than Comic

The force’s ‘Project Wide Awake’ name choice shows a broken police culture that harms Black and Indigenous communities.

The RCMP’s decision to name its Project Wide Awake online surveillance program after mutant trackers in the X-Men comic book series might seem like harmless fun.

But viewed against the scathing revelations of systemic racism and misogyny in police forces nationwide, it’s a troubling glimpse into police culture that unmasks the institution’s casual dehumanization of marginalized groups.

The Tyee first revealed the existence of Project Wide Awake, an operation monitoring individuals’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media activity, in 2019.

In the X-Men comic series, Project Wide Awake is a covert government program that employs mutant-hunters, or “sentinels,” to monitor, track down and exterminate human mutants — the X-Men.

In the real world, Project Wide Awake is the RCMP’s large-scale online surveillance program designed to monitor internet users and political protest activity. In the RCMP’s version, Canadian residents are the mutants being targeted by “the hunters.”

But not everyone is an equal target. Due to power dynamics and social discrimination, poor, Black and Indigenous communities are disproportionately policed and surveilled. They’re often cast as the “bad guys.”

The operation’s mutant-hunting eponym is not coincidental or even an isolated incident within the RCMP. Documents obtained by The Tyee exposed references to two projects connected to Project Wide Awake with names plucked directly from the X-Men series: Sentinel (mutant hunting robots in the comic book series) and Cerebro (a powerful device to detect mutants’ locations).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

UNBC researchers’ book alleging wrongdoing in Guatemala was accepted, reviewed, then cancelled.

Two British Columbia university professors are accusing a major academic publisher of blocking scrutiny of Canadian mining companies by cancelling publication of their book.

“We have a responsibility to publicize what happened,” wrote University of Northern British Columbia geography professor and department chair Catherine Nolin and UNBC adjunct professor Grahame Russell in an open letter to Springer Nature. Russell lives in Toronto and runs UNBC field courses in Guatemala with Nolin.

Nolin and Russell co-edited Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala: The Violence, Corruption, and Impunity of Contemporary Predatory Mineral Exploitation. Russell is also a founder and director of the advocacy group Rights Action.

The book had passed peer review and was ready last February for publication, but after several months delay Springer Nature notified them that after a legal review it had decided to cancel their contract and return the rights to the manuscript to them. It cited libel concerns.

“They didn’t engage in any sort of tweaks,” Russell said in a Zoom call. “We didn’t think it would be five months of silence and then shut the door.”

Headquartered in Europe, Springer Nature publishes thousands of titles a year according to its website, as well as journals including Nature.

“A major theme addressed in the articles, testimonies and analysis that comprise our book is the endemic corruption and impunity with which the mining companies addressed in the book have, variously, been able to operate in Guatemala, with their Guatemalan economic and political partners,” Nolin and Russell wrote in their letter.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Keying off Tyee RCMP Revelations, MP Angus Wants an Investigation

Keying off Tyee RCMP Revelations, MP Angus Wants an Investigation

Exposé on Project Wide Awake web spying adds reasons to consider changing privacy law, Angus says.

Revelations in The Tyee’s recent report on the RCMP’s social media monitoring programs are “very concerning” and deserve investigation, says NDP MP Charlie Angus, a member of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee.

Angus said the Tyee report bolstered his sense that privacy laws may need changing to restrain police in how they use digital tools to spy on citizens.

Angus said he will be calling for a probe by the federal watchdog Office of the Privacy Commissioner into issues raised by The Tyee’s reporting.

Internal documents show the force used national security exceptions to keep advanced monitoring software from the public and discussed unmasking private friends lists on Facebook.

The Tyee also found the RCMP listed “private communications” and those related to “protests” in its definition of encrypted “Darknet” sources it targets with surveillance software — some of which remain redacted in contract documents.

Training documents for members of its Project Wide Awake web-spying program include a slide saying, “You have no privacy. Get over it,” and a section headed “social media surveillance” — a description the force previously disputed applies to its activities online.

The Tyee published the report Monday based on 3,000 pages of internal documents obtained from an access to information filed a year and a half ago.

“There’s a real question about oversight with the RCMP,” said Angus in response to the article. “If they were that fast and loose with so many basic principles of jurisprudence and justice, they could go much further. And that’s what I find very concerning.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In the War on Climate Change, the BC Election Was a Bust

In the War on Climate Change, the BC Election Was a Bust

But the Sustainabiliteens and other youth committed to radical change will never give up.

For high school students and climate activists like us, British Columbia’s recent election wasn’t just about politics. It was about our futures: the 10 or so years we have left to prevent the worst of the global climate crisis. That doesn’t sound so long when you think of it as two or three election cycles.

We are both organizers with Sustainabiliteens, Metro Vancouver’s youth climate strike movement. We worked on campaigns this election because we believe in the power of political organizing to create change. We spent countless hours canvassing, flyering and phone banking — and now we have a chance to reflect on what the results mean for our generation and the future of the province.

First of all, this power-grab election should never have been called in the first place. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, not to mention a looming climate crisis — speaking of which, are we crazy or does the NDP really want to go ahead with Site C?

Suffice to say, an NDP majority wasn’t the result we wanted. Premier John Horgan found popularity not in spite of the BC Greens holding him accountable, but because of them. Honestly, we’re scared for what Horgan will do with absolute power. As we should be, considering his track record on climate action, as well as Indigenous sovereignty.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pipe Dream: Taxpayer-Owned TMX Is a Bust, Concludes Analyst

Pipe Dream: Taxpayer-Owned TMX Is a Bust, Concludes Analyst

Expect no Asian windfall for oilsands crude, says a new report by expert David Hughes.

Remember that 67-year-old pipeline and its controversial bitumen expansion project that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bought from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in 2018?

Well, a lot has happened since then.

For starters, the bitumen export project has climbed from a price tag of $7.8 billion to $12.6 billion and counting.

Meanwhile, a global pandemic has slowed the economy to a crawl and destabilized oil prices by bluntly curbing demand, probably for years.

The troubled oil industry, already reeling from global overproduction and crushing debt, is now actively contracting.

Cenovus and Husky, two of the five largest oilsands producers, just merged to save money by killing more than 2,000 jobs. Suncor axed another 2,000 employees. The so-called “economic engine of Canada” is shedding jobs, not making them.

As the world’s oil industry shrinks, prospects for global economic recovery seem remote if not problematic, because the world runs on oil.

China, the presumed market for Alberta’s heavy sour crude, has arrested two of our citizens, bullied our leaders and become a global exporter of technological tyranny.

And climate change, the topic everyone likes to endlessly talk about, continues to erode shorelines, burn forests, create refugees and undermine global security.

So does the world still need the Trans Mountain expansion project?

That’s the timely question David Hughes, one of the country’s foremost energy experts, deftly answers in his latest report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

And the answer is a big fat no.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

LNG in BC Is a ‘Losing’ Bet, Report Finds

LNG in BC Is a ‘Losing’ Bet, Report Finds

New analysis calls out rosy job projections for industry ‘misleading’ and unrealistic.

A respected U.S. energy group has criticized a rosy Conference Board of Canada report championing more liquefied natural gas development in British Columbia as “a lobbying effort for government subsidies, support and flexibility.”

The scathing critique by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis characterized the Conference Board report as “misleading,” short on facts and unrealistic.

“The Conference Board, a non-profit economic research organization based in Ottawa, believes Asian, or more specifically, Chinese demand growth can sustain a further leap in British Columbian LNG capacity growth, despite corporate investors already folding their hands,” said the institute in its highly-critical paper.

The Ohio-based institute is funded by a variety of philanthropic organizations and examines issues related to energy markets, trends and policies. Its mission is “to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.”

The Conference Board’s July report, titled “Rising Tide,” estimated that if the government boosted LNG development to export 56 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year the industry would create 100,000 jobs based on an imaginary growth scenario.

“B.C. is becoming the focal point for a new Canadian industry — liquefied natural gas,” claimed the report, which failed to mention that 13 LNG projects have already been cancelled or suspended in B.C. and other parts of Canada due to bad economics, global oversupply and high extraction costs based on hydraulic fracturing.

At the moment, Shell’s LNG Canada is the only active project in B.C.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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