Divestiture of the Dominion Coal Blocks

Description

The Government of Canada is considering the divestiture of the Dominion Coal Blocks.

The Dominion Coal Blocks are two parcels of federal Crown land located in the Kootenay region of British Columbia. The two parcels, known as Parcel 73 and Parcel 82, cover an area of approximately 2,000 hectares, and over 18,000 hectares, respectively.

The Dominion Coal Blocks were acquired by the Government of Canada in 1905 in exchange for the support it provided for rail construction through the Crow’s Nest Pass, a mountain pass linking British Columbia and Alberta. Since their acquisition by the Government of Canada, the Dominion Coal Blocks have remained largely unutilized, supporting limited forestry operations and recreational activities.

Summary of SEA Results

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a Detailed Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was undertaken for this initiative in advance of any decision with respect to the divestiture of the Dominion Coal Blocks. The SEA concluded that the divestiture of the Dominion Coal Blocks would not result in any material direct environmental effects, positive or negative, as the decision does not result in a specific development. However, the divestiture would place the Dominion Coal Blocks within the provincial regulatory framework, which in turn could increase the likelihood of coal mining and other resource development on this land. The SEA also recognized that, under provincial jurisdiction, portions of the lands could be considered for protection from development.

Environmental Effects, and Enhancement, Mitigation and Follow-up Measures

The Government of Canada is in discussions with the Province of British Columbia to determine the best approach to ensuring the ongoing protection from development of the entire Flathead River Watershed. Approximately one-third of Parcel 82 overlaps with the Flathead River Watershed, an important transboundary watershed that is protected by a resource development moratorium legislated by the Province of British Columbia in 2011 through the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act.

Post divestiture, should mining projects be considered, potential specific environmental effects associated with such projects would be expected to include landscape disturbances, water and air quality impacts, and wildlife habitat disturbance and loss. Prior to such development decisions being made, future proposals would be subject to the provincial environmental assessment review process under the provincial regulatory framework, as applicable. Any future designated projects would also be assessed as per the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and other applicable federal legislation. An environmental assessment would consider a comprehensive set of factors including specific environmental effects, mitigation measures, and comments received from the public and through consultation with Aboriginal groups.

Results of Consultations

The Government of Canada has engaged in formal consultations with Aboriginal groups in the Dominion Coal Blocks area, it is in discussions with the Province of British Columbia to seek its views with respect to the divestiture of the Dominion Coal Blocks.

Any future land use or resource development decision would also be subject to a public and Aboriginal consultation process.

Linkage to Sustainable Development

A federal decision on the divestiture of the Dominion Coal Blocks does not have direct implications for the goals and targets of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. Post divestiture, the Province of British Columbia would apply appropriate oversight, controls and regulation, to determine uses and to inform decision-making in support of sustainable development.

Relevant Links

For more information, please visit: NRCan Public Notice release (August 30, 2013)