The proposed Frontier oil sands mine in Alberta has attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks, with the Trudeau government appearing to waver on approving a project that has cleared all its regulatory hurdles. That debate encapsulates the strain between a potential economic win and Canada’s climate-change goals.
Frontier, however, is hardly alone among the difficult industrial-development questions facing the country.
New Brunswick is wrestling with its own Frontier-like challenge. In mid-January, a small Toronto company called Maritime Iron filed its plans to the provincial government for an environmental review. The company wants to build a facility to turn iron ore into pig iron, a product used in steelmaking. The site is beside a coal-power plant in rural New Brunswick near Bathurst.
The project, with a construction budget of $1.5-billion, could create 200 permanent jobs. It’s not a small number in region that recently saw the loss of about 400 jobs when a lead smelter was shuttered. Maritime Iron also says its plant could generate $50-million a year in taxes – a boost of about 0.5 per cent to New Brunswick’s annual revenue.
The problematic part of the proposal is the facility’s predicted climate-heating emissions: 2.3 megatonnes a year. Maritime Iron would not as dirty as Frontier – the mine’s emissions are estimated at 4.1 megatonnes, if it is ever built – but Maritime Iron still would rank as one of the larger emitters in Canada.