An aerial view of Fort McKay, Alta., Monday, September 19, 2011. An Alberta First Nation supreme the province over development approval, as it says threatens the holy land the government has promised to protect. Fort McKay First Nation filed the lawsuit in an Edmonton court late last week.
An Alberts first nation supreme the province over development approvals, which the band says threatens holy land, which the government has promised to protect.
"We will not stand idiotically and let the area be destroyed," said Jim Boucher, director of Fort McKay First Nation, in a press release.
Fort McKay, an 800-mile community about 80 km from Fort McMurray, is surrounded by open-pit oiland mines on three sides. The nearest is within four kilometers.
Band members have long considered the unspoilt area around the Moose and Namur lakes, west of the community, their last haven for traditional hunting, catching and picking. The lawsuit claims that there has been so much development in the region – from energy exploration to forestry to agriculture – that Moose Lake is all Fort McKay has left.
"Without the conservation of the Moose Lake area, the applicants will no longer be able to exercise their treaty rights meaningfully," said the statement containing statements that have not yet been proven in court.
"(Moose Lake) is now under immediate threat from industrial activity, which has been or will be approved by Alberta."
The state government did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The alleged threat comes from an approval granted in June of June by the province's energy regulator for an oil sands project that would come within two miles of Moose Lake. Prosper Petroleum's $ 440 million, 10,000-barrel-a-day plans were strongly opposed by Fort McKay at that time.
The green light came despite a provincial plan proposal – the result of 15 years of talks under several different governments – to give the area some protection.
The plan considered a 10 kilometer zone around Moose and Namur lakes with precautions to protect Fort McKay's land use. It would have established access control, environmental monitoring and thresholds for the surrounding area.
Alberts Energy Regulator said at the time that it had taken into account social and economic issues as well as consequences for treaty rights.
However, the regulator said that it could not balance the effect of the approval on the provincial plan for the maritime area because the plan was still discussed and not completed.
The lawsuit requests the court to violate industrial activity permissions within the 10-kilometer zone. It also requests the court to prohibit Alberta from approving more activity in the area unless Fort McKay agrees.
"Alberta has failed to … protect the Moose Lake area from the effects of industrial development," says the claim of claims. "Alberta will continue, unless prevented from doing so, to undertake or approve industrial development within the Moose Lake area."
Prosper Petroleum has said it is committed to addressing its neighbors concerns.
The company would use steam injected into shallow horizontal wells to melt heavy sticky bitumen raw and allow it to drip into a parallel well before it was pumped to the surface where it would be transported by truck to a buyer or pipeline.