Party Leader Mr. Swenson, on behalf of the PC Party of Saskatchewan made a submission to the Environmental Assessment Branch of the Ministry of the Environment in response to the Yancoal Project Environmental Impact Study (EIS). The text of the submission is below.
Senior EA Administrator
Environmental Assessment Branch
Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment
3211 Albert Street, 4th Floor
Regina, SK S4S 5W6
Phone: (306) 787-7706
Dear Mr. Sadik
The proposed Yancoal Potash Project has been a matter of public debate for the last two years. Rick Swenson the leader of the PC Party of Saskatchewan has attended two public forums in Earl Grey, SK by invitation of local residents. Mr. Swenson was approached because of his past history as Minister of Energy and Mines for the Province of Saskatchewan and is very familiar with all aspects of the potash industry. These public information meetings were attended by employees of Yancoal, and hundreds of members of the public from the surrounding areas. A lot of very good information was provided but also left many questions unanswered.
Therefore decisions around the Yancoal Potash Project we feel should be made after an informed debate on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, using input not only from Yancoal and the general public, but also from some non-partisan professionals who have the training and expertise to properly analyse the vast amounts of information in the EIS provided by Yancoal, but also comments from interested members of the public The Yancoal decision should not be left only in the hands of the Ministry of the Environment.
The Yancoal potash project is not like any other potash development in Saskatchewan. Yancoal is a subsidiary of Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. Ltd, which in turn is owned by Yankuang Group Co. Ltd. A State Owned enterprise. As such, Yancoal should be considered a state-owned company. This puts them in a totally different category in the development of one of our key resources.
The company’s track record in other countries where they have established operations have shown they do not respect the environment and our land resources the way we do.
In Australia, “The Austar mine has been fined more than $115,000 after wastewater from an onsite septic system seeped into Bellbird Creek in July last year..” - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-14/mine-fine-for-polluting-creek/3729942
In China, they have created massive sinkholes issues with coal mines. - http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/24/world/asia/china-sinkhole-problem/
In Australia they are suspending mining operations, effective June 2016, at the Donaldson plant because of market challenges across the globe. http://www.mining-technology.com/news/newsyancoal-suspend-donaldson-coal-operation-australia-4826927
Therefore things like the environmental impact statement which deals with land use, pollution, water resources, highways, rail lines and other infrastructure must have a lot of attention paid so that we get it right. The environmental impact statement does not deal with some of the bigger issues around foreign control of our resources or the investment Saskatchewan taxpayers had made in much of the current industry operating here. It is almost impossible for an individual or local group of concerned citizens to plow through this environmental impact statement without access to expertise equivalent to the people who put this statement together in the first place.
Getting public input is a good idea; however, in this case it is almost totally impossible for an individual to plow through the reams of technical data. The technical complexity of the EIS is another reason for outside scrutiny. The total document is over 3000 pages. The main document is over 800 pages. How can the average Saskatchewan person get through that much material in a month when they only have the opportunity to read it when they are not working at their regular job or farmers in the middle of spring seeding. People who have the training and the time to thoroughly examine the document should be provided to both proponents and opponents of such an undertaking.
The average person cannot do the due diligence on issues like the effects on the Hatfield Aquifer which runs under this entire area and supplies water to thousands of citizens. The average person will have difficulty assessing the information on the degree of subsidence which will occur because of removing the potash from underneath and what that will do to the surface water systems. The average person who lives in the area will have a great deal of difficulty in understanding what the increased traffic and other forms of transportation will do to their local area and living conditions.
As well, there is a lot of scientific data mentioned and it would be difficult to assess the validity without having the same type of trained individuals on your side of the argument. It should be the government’s responsibility to locate non-partisan, trained individuals to scrutinize the document in a public forum.
In addition, the review process should also examine how this project will affect the market in Saskatchewan and offshore for potash. Will the other potash companies be forced to reduce production if this project goes to full production? How will the proposed potash royalty review deal with a state owned enterprise.
It is clear there is very strong opposition to the project by residents who live in the area of the proposed mine. Is this not something that needs to be taken into consideration when there may be alternative sites around this ore body which would have far less effect on area residents?
There is currently a lack of access to railways in the proposed location. Will there need to be new lines built? Obviously, and will this affect the environment even further during construction and ongoing operation of these rail lines?
The demands for water are well known, but as the demands on Buffalo Pound Lake by Regina and Moose Jaw continue to grow, is potable water guaranteed to these communities ahead of potash mines? Is it really sustainable to add more large licensees on an already strained system? Regina and Moose Jaw both experienced some of this last year when the algae blooms affected the filtration system. The upper Qu’Appelle conveyance system which basically consists of the old creek bed was never designed for these types of sustained flows. The Water Security Agency has never released their long term costing or ultimate goals to be achieved with this current system. The government has been currently dredging this conveyance system for short term results but never indicated what the long term costs will be for Southern Saskatchewan and the users of Lake Diefenbaker water.
The PC Party believes this EIS should go before the Legislative Assembly for further scrutiny after the Ministry of Environment has reviewed the documents. Brad Wall in his position as Premier of Saskatchewan prevented the possible takeover of PCS by BHP Biliton because he said it was not in the best interest of Saskatchewan’s potash industry or Saskatchewan taxpayers. Because of the relationship of this particular company with a foreign government who is also a large buyer of Saskatchewan potash, the same type of scrutiny would be prudent by the Premier and the Sask Party Government as many of the same principles would apply. It is therefore extremely important to take whatever time is necessary for an open and full accounting of this EIS to ensure that the concerns of local residents, the concerns of the Qu’Appelle Valley, and the overall health of Saskatchewan’s economy be taken into consideration.
Leader, PC Party of Saskatchewan