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Shell oil sands project violates treaty rights, First Nation argues

A First Nation at the heart of Alberta's oil sands region says it has not been properly consulted by government or industry about Shell's proposed Jackpine Mine expansion.

It today filed a constitutional challenge that, if successful, could mean significant delays and hurdles for future oil sands projects.

“We have repeatedly tried to engage with both the government and Shell to find better way to address our rights,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said in a press release. “However, 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."

Shell's proposed expansion, which would bring 100,000 barrels per day of new oil sands production online, goes before a joint federal-provincial environmental hearing on October 29.

The Athasbasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is downstream from Fort McMurrary, has made several constitutional challenges to oil sands projects in the past. None so far has been successful.

“Shell has engaged extensively with ACFN over the last 15 years,” company spokesperson David Williams wrote in an e-mail to the Globe and Mail.

Some federal Canadian scientists have expressed concerns about Shell's Jackpine Mine proposal, particularly its impact on the Athabasca River.

Some observers predict that constitutional challenges filed by B.C. First Nations against Enbridge's Northern Gateway project could delay the project for years.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate change for The Tyee.

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