$9B Joslyn oilsands project gets green light

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says it should not have taken six years to approve the Alberta project, adding the environment review process should be streamlined to two years or less.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says Canada's environmental review process takes too long and it should be streamlined so it doesn't last any longer than two years.

Oliver made the statement in announcing federal approval for French oil giant Total's Joslyn North oilsands mine project 65 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray, Alta.

"I think the regulatory process should be completed within a reasonable amount of time and that time should be a couple of years," said Oliver.

It took six years for Total to get environmental approval for the project, which faced opposition from environmental groups. Oliver said that was unacceptable, but didn't offer specific suggestions on how to shorten the process.

Oliver told reporters the mine could bring as much as $9 billion in new investment in Canada. Total says the project will create thousands of jobs.

The opposition wasn't impressed with Oliver's statements about the environmental assessment process.

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"You can wave a wand and say you are going to drop it from six [years] to four to two. Well, why not one? Why not not have it? Why not six months? If you think you know what the predestined outcome of the process is going to be, then why have the process?" asked MP David McGuinty, the Liberals' natural resources critic.

The Joslyn project is slated to be up and running at full production by 2017.

At full capacity, it will produce 100,000 barrels of bitumen a day. Total estimates are that the mine will yield more than 874 million barrels over its 20-year lifespan.