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The Cardinal Divide area is adjacent to the eastern side of Jasper National Park. It spans the continental divide; one side drains to the Arctic Ocean and the other to the Hudson’s Bay.

Resource extraction has compromised the integrity of this incredibly biodiverse region. Restoration and protection of the Cardinal Divide is required.

    • Introduction
    • Concerns
    • Features
    • History
    • Archive
    • Other Areas

    Cardinal_Divide_map_150px     20160401_awa_bighorn_banner

    The Cardinal Divide area is adjacent to the eastern side of Jasper National Park, southeast of the town of Hinton. The area spans the continental divide; one side drains to the Arctic Ocean and the other to the Hudson’s Bay. Resource extraction in the Cardinal Divide area is jeopardizing a refugium that is home to incredible biological diversity.  High elevations of the Cardinal Divide are thought to have been a ‘nunatak,’ an area that remained ice-free during the last period of glaciation.  This attribute would explain the diverse and unique population of plant and insect species found there.


    Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park currently occupies an area of 174 km2.


    • Preservation of the entire area (including Folding Mountain, Red Cap and Cardinal River Headwaters, Cheviot Mine site) through a 430 km2 addition to Whitehorse Wildland Park.
    • Inclusion of the entire area within World heritage Site designation for contiguous Canadian Rocky Mountain national parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay) and B.C. provincial parks.


    Forest Land Use Zones map: JPG | PDF

    IRP map:  JPG | PDF



    Cheviot Mine

    The Cheviot Mine was originally proposed in 1996 by Cardinal River Coals Ltd (CRC) as an open pit surface coal mine and coal processing plant. It  was not developed due to poor economic viability and public opposition. However, in 2002 CRC submitted an application to the Alberta Government for an amendment to the existing Cheviot mine permit and sought environmental approval for the operation of the Luscar mine. Despite significant omissions in the Environmental Assessment process and court challenges mining went ahead in 2005. AWA opposed the mine throughout its development due to the ecological significance and sensitivity of the area, as well as proximity to Jasper National Park and the Whitehorse Creek Wildland Park.

    Now that mining and reclamation of some site is underway, AWA maintains that all future land uses must be severely restricted to allow restoration of the disturbed mine area and re-establishment of wildlife habitat.



    Cardinal Divide mining




    • The Cardinal Divide area is adjacent to the eastern side of Jasper National Park, southeast of the town of Hinton.
    • Elevation: over 1,829 km (6000 ft). The high point is posted at 1,981 metres (~6500ft)
    • glacial refugium, presumed ice-free corridor
    • patterned ground, waterfalls and cascades
    • diverse geomorphic features
    • fossil beds
    • Cadomin Cave – Bats
      • 3 km passages
      • hibernaculum for rare long-legged bat, northern long-eared bat (blue-listed in AB) and little brown bat
      • 2000-5000 in winter
      • 1 of 2 known hibernacula for northern long-eared bat
      • confirmed swarming site (mating, allows for genetic diversity between species) for 10,000 to 20,000 bats

    Township and Range map: JPG | PDF

    Natural Subregions map:  JPG | PDF

    Natural Region

    • Rocky Mountain Natural Region
    • Subregions:  Sub-Alpine and Alpine

    Provincially Significant Areas

    • Whitehorse Creek
    • McLeod River Headwaters
    • Redcap Mountain
    • Cardinal River Headwaters

    ESA map:  JPG | PDF


    • McLeod – Athabasca rivers to the Arctic Ocean and Cardinal – North Saskatchewan rivers to Hudson’s Bay and the Atlantic Ocean



    • The area is considered a ‘nunatak’ as it remained ice-free during the last glaciation.  This has left a rich alpine plant community with 277 plant species, 37 of which are rare or disjunct.
    • wildlife travel corridors
    • rare plants (at least 92)
    • ~27 species of threatened mammals and birds
    • diversity of mammals (47 species) and songbirds (129 species)
    • rare and disjuncts insects and crustaceans documented


    • Significant paleontological sites; sacred land of the First Nations, they have used medicinal plants in the area throughout history; the site of one of Alberta’s first, most remote and highest elevation (underground) mining villages– Mountain Park.

    August 2005

    August 17 -The Federal Court dismisses a challenge to the approval of the Cheviot coal mine, which had been filed by a coalition of environmental groups representing wildlife and concerned members of the Alberta public. The legal issues with which the coalition was most recently concerned surrounded what the coalition believed to be ill-founded approval for the Cheviot mine, the enormous coal mining project located within three kilometres of the eastern border of Jasper National Park. The coalition had applied for a judicial review of the failure of the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to comply with duties under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

    A key ruling by the federal court was that a new environmental assessment (EA) was not required, even though Elk Valley Coal and its parent companies, Teck Cominco and Fording Canadian Coal Trust, had not included a haul road in the original submission and subsequent EA. Additionally, the court deemed it irrelevant that a haul road was later added to now pass over a causeway/dam, as the dam itself had been assessed previously.

    March 2005

    The Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills boreal caribou study is initiated  in the Northwest Territories. The study area was extended south into Alberta due to the free movement of collared animals between the two jurisdictions. In the NWT, the Cameron Hills has past and existing oil and gas activities, and represents an important area to investigate interactions between boreal caribou and industrial developments.

    November 2004

    Nov. 2 – Conservation groups launch another legal challenge against the Federal Governments’ recent authorizations of the Cheviot Creek Development (first phase of mine development). The groups challenge the authorization should be quashed because it directly contravenes the Migratory Bird Convention Act.

    October 2004

    October 12 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans notifies the conservation coalition that they have granted an Authorization for first phase of the Cheviot project; the Cheviot Creek development. The authorization was issued September 20, 2004.

    April 2003

    The companies receive approval from the Alberta Energy & Utilities Board to expand the Cheviot mine permit, adding the McLeod River valley to the mine area in order to link Cheviot with the existing Luscar mine infrastructure located 22 km to the north.

    July 2002

    CRC submits an application to the Alberta Government for an amendment to the existing Cheviot mine permit and seeks the environmental approval for the operation of the Luscar mine. The amendment is to seek regulatory approval to construct a 10km private haulroad to link the proposed Cheviot mine permit area with the existing Luscar mine permit area. The road will be a 22 km long private high-speed coal haulroad adjacent to McLeod River, constructed

    March 29, 2002

    Paramount Resources’ gas processing plant at Cameron Hills comes on production.

    March 1 – A new public hearing regarding supplemental environmental review of mine application is held with the original Joint Panel. This supplemental review is the result of the successful lawsuit launched in October 1997 by the AWA Coalition and Canadian Natural Federation (CNF).


    March 1-3 – A Federal Court Hearing proceeds regarding the lawsuit launched by the ENGOs.


    December – The AWA Coalition wins the appeal for a new trial regarding the Cheviot Coal Mine development.

    UNESCO World Heritage Committee urges Canada to reconsider 1997 mine approval & work on alternatives with Alberta. The Cheviot mine site is to be located only 1.8 km from Jasper National Park, a World Heritage Site.

    The AWA coalition (CPAWS, JEA, Pembina) and CNF launches (files) a lawsuit against the Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Joint Review Panel as the review did not comply with requirements of CEAA.


    August 1997 – The Alberta Government approves the development of the Cheviot Mine.

    AWA recommends that Cameron Hills be preserved as a representative wildland in the “Environmentally Significant Areas of Alberta” report prepared by Sweetgrass Consultants for the Resource Data Division, Alberta Environmental Protection.


    In 1996 Cardinal River Coals Ltd (CRC) propose an open pit surface coal mine and coal processing plant to be known as the Cheviot Mine, backed by Edmonton Based Luscar Ltd. and CONSOL Energy Canada Ltd. The mine was to be located on public land in the heart of the Cardinal Divide region 70km south of Hinton and 2 km from Jasper National Park boundary. The $250 million mine project was to secure 450 permanent positions over 20 years and would supply 3.2 million clean metric tonnes per year of metallurgical coal (coking coal) primarily to steel mills in Asia. The Cheviot project was set to replace the aging and depleting Luscar Mine operations located 22 km to the north. Luscar coal reserves were depleting and required the establishment of Cheviot to maintain workforce and supply their export customers. Upon approval, mine development would have begun in 1999. However, it was not developed due to poor economic viability and public opposition.


    The Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills Draft Resource Management Plan is released.

    Late 1980s

    Concerns arise about the impact of land use and timber harvesting on woodland caribou and permafrost in the Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills area.

    Early 1980s

    Fires change the nature of the northern caribou range, and oil and gas development damages some areas of permafrost.

    Mid 1950s

    Oil and gas exploration efforts underway in the Cameron Hills.

    April 17, 2018

    Letter RE: North Saskatchewan Regional Plan (NSRP) Regional Advisory Council (RAC) Advice

    Dear Premier Notley and Minister Phillips, Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) appreciates the opportunity to comment…

    Read more »

    May 18, 2017

    Alberta’s Oil Sands, Coal Mines Security Not Keeping Pace with Risks

    The Alberta Energy Regulator has reported that oil sands and coal mine cleanup liabilities in…

    Read more »

    October 1, 2006

    Cheviot Mine Back under United Nations’ Spotlight

    Wild Lands Advocate article, October 2006, by David Samson 200610_AR_CD.pdf

    Read more »

It is my belief that Non-profit organizations like the Alberta Wilderness Association provide a clear framework that creates opportunities for Albertans to actively participate in the protection of their provinces resources.
- Chelsea Caswell, Student, University of Lethbridge
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