EDMONTON - A northern Alberta aboriginal band has filed a constitutional challenge of Shell Canada's proposed Jackpine oilsands mine expansion project, less than a month before hearings on the project are to begin.
The Athabasca-Chipewyan First Nation says that both Shell Canada (TSX:SHC) and the Alberta government have failed to adequately consult with them in the project's design. They say unless changes are made, it will make it difficult for them to exercise their treaty rights to use the land for traditional activities.
“The government has not listened to us or made meaningful attempts to accommodate the ACFN in relation to the impacts of this and other tar sands projects," said chief Allan Adam in a release.
"They have failed to accurately inform themselves of what our people truly require in order to protect our lands and rights.”
The band says the proposed application would require the disturbance of 12,719 hectares of land and destroy 21 kilometres of the Muskeg River, considered culturally significant.
Hearings on the project, which would increase Shell's bitumen production by 100,000 barrels a day, are to begin on Oct. 29, five years after the company originally started the regulatory process.
Those hearings will now be preceded by an Oct. 23 hearing on the constitutional challenges.
Athabasca Chipewyan spokeswoman Eriel Deranger said that challenge would at first come before a regulatory board. That panel could decide to deal with the challenge itself or send it to the courts.
The band filed a similar challenge before hearings began on Total's Joslyn mine, only to retract it when the French energy giant signed an impact and benefits agreement. Deranger said the band lacked resources for a fight over Joslyn and received legal advice it was unlikely to win a battle over a region on the edge of their territory.
Deranger said the band has plenty of cash for a legal fight and won't back down over a project in the heart of their land.
"They'll see it through."
Still, the band still expects the hearings to begin on schedule and is readying its experts and arguments, said Deranger.