The Canada government will join an environmental assessment of a major expansion to the British Columbian Teck Resources Ltd.’s Castle project. This project, which is already undergoing a rigorous provincial environmental review process with the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office, will extend Teck’s existing Fording River operation. The Castle project would increase the area being mined by about one-third and allow the company to maintain production of steel-making coal at 27,400 metric tons a day.

“The potential for adverse effects… may not be mitigated through project design, the application of standard mitigation measures, or through existing legislative mechanisms,” an analysis from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada said.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson used the analysis to make his decision on the Teck Resources project. He had already reversed an earlier ruling and announced that Ottawa would take part in a review of the proposed Vista coal project in Alberta. Several other companies have made known their plans to mine coal in that province.

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) said there is no comprehensible policy justification for the federal government’s decision to designate the Castle Project under the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) since the British Columbia Environmental Office is able to contend with any relevant issues.

“It seems clear that this decision was political in nature as there are many projects across the country with equal or more significant impacts that are not subject to the IAA,” President and CEO of MAC Pierre Gratton said. “This is a case of the government succumbing to pressure from political interest groups while also placating the U.S. government’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the state of Montana.”

The review involves fisheries, First Nations and international relations of all areas of federal jurisdiction. The mine expansion would also produce significantly more coal than the threshold required for a federal review.

Teck spokesman Chad Pederson called the announcement an “unfortunate decision.” “The Castle project has already been proceeding through a rigorous provincial environmental review process,” he said in a statement. “We will work with the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to ensure a coordinated review and seek to avoid duplication.”

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said the province will coordinate federal involvement. Teck’s Pederson said the Castle project is “part of the existing Fording River operations and is necessary to maintain the associated jobs and economic activity.”