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Burnaby RCMP investigating GPS tracker 'secreted' on Trans Mountain tunnel-boring machine

Greenpeace declined to say whether it was aware of the tracking device found on the machine currently digging a 2.6-kilometre tunnel through Burnaby Mountain for the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline
TMX boring machine
Pipeline protesters Mary Lovell and Laura Yates occupy the TMX tunnel boring machine in Delta in May 2018.

Police are investigating a GPS tracking device “secreted” onto a tunnel boring machine that is currently burrowing a 4.43-metre diameter hole through Burnaby Mountain as part of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Crews readying the machine for a day’s excavation spotted the tracking device on June 9, 2021, according to one of Trans Mountain’s construction updates to the Canada Energy Regulator

Each report includes a list of security and safety incidents.

The July 7, 2021 report opined the device had been stuck onto the machine when it first arrived in Canada in the spring of 2018. 

But it also noted the device could only be purchased in Europe.

Shortly before dawn on May 3, 2018, two Greenpeace protesters, Mary Lovell and Laura Yates, made their way into a yard in the Tilbery Industrial Park in Delta where the tunnel boring machine was being stored.

They scaled the machine and occupied it to protest the twinning of the 1,150-kilometre pipeline, which ships crude oil and refined petroleum products from Edmonton, Alta. to Burnaby’s Westridge Marine Terminal.

The protesters told reporters they had tracked the machine all the way from Germany.

The GPS tracker wasn’t found until almost three years later, when the tunnel boring machine, which was custom built by German firm Herrenknecht AG for about $10 million, had already dug at least six metres into Burnaby Mountain.

Burnaby RCMP confirmed the detachment got a report from Trans Mountain in June 2021 that a “GPS tracker had been discovered on a piece of machinery.”

Trans Mountain turned over the device, and police determined is was inactive, according to a Burnaby RCMP email to the NOW.

“The file is still under investigation,” stated the email.

The NOW reached out to Greenpeace and asked if the organization was aware of the tracking device.

Instead of answering a list of questions sent by the NOW, Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Brandon Wei reiterated Greenpeace had “tracked” the drill from Germany to Delta and the organization opposed the pipeline expansion as a “failed investment with material climate risks.”

“At the time, we brought these risks to light through our non-violent direct action,” Wei stated in an email.

Tunnel boring at Burnaby Mountain officially began on May 26, 2021.

By the end of February, the machine was excavating at 847 metres, according to the latest construction update.

The tunnel will eventually be 2.6 kilometres long, with parts buried up to 130 metres below the surface of the mountain.

It will connect the expanded Burnaby tank farm and the Westridge Marine Terminal with three vertically stacked distribution lines.

Here are the questions Greenpeace didn't answer:

Was Greenpeace aware of the device?

Who placed the device on the machine?

When and where was the device placed on the machine?

Was this an international operation?

What was the purpose of placing the device on the machine?

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email [email protected]