Category Archives: Coal Mining

Digging out of Canada’s mining dilemma

A Toronto March in solidairty with Guatemalan Goldcorp protestors (Allan Lissner)
A Toronto March in solidarity with Guatemalan Goldcorp protestors (Photo: Allan Lissner)

It sometimes seems people in the mining and fossil fuel industries — along with their government promoters — don’t believe in the future. What else could explain the mad rush to extract and use up the Earth’s resources as quickly and wastefully as possible?

Mining production doubles globally

Global mining production, including fossil fuels, has almost doubled since 1984, from just over nine-billion tonnes to almost 17-billion in 2012, with the greatest increases over the past 10 years.

It’s partly to meet rising demand from expanding human populations and supply the cycle of consumerism that fuels the global economy through planned obsolescence, marketing unnecessary products and wasteful technologies. And, as the British Geological Survey notes:

[quote]It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge, but wars have been the drivers for many of mankind’s technological developments. Such technologies depend on secure supplies of numerous mineral commodities for which demand inevitably escalates in times of war.[/quote]

Canada: Global mining titan

Mining is important to human well-being, but the current economic system means it’s often aimed at maximizing profit with little regard for people or the environment. It’s one area where Canadians can make a difference. Canada is a global leader in mining, especially in Latin America. According to the Mining Association of Canada, “Almost 60% of the world’s public mining companies are listed on the TSX and TSX-Venture Exchanges, and 70% of the equity capital raised globally for mining companies is raised on these exchanges.” The association adds, “Canadian-headquartered mining companies accounted for nearly 37% of budgeted worldwide exploration expenditures in 2012.”

Canada has also tied foreign aid to support for mining interests.

Canada tries to improve on dark history

Canadian mining companies haven’t always had a great record for environmental and social responsibility in communities where they operate — but public scrutiny and pressure may be helping to change that. In the face of criticism, industry leaders insist practices are improving. “The Canadian mining industry, and certainly what our members are doing now, is much, much different now than what it was 20, 25 years ago,” Canadian Mining Association president and CEO Pierre Gratton told Global News in response to a critical Council on Hemispheric Affairs article.

According to the June 2014 article:

[quote]Large-scale Canadian mining companies, and the Canadian government that oversees such commercial ventures, have failed to adhere to reliable standards of international law, which assert that home states are responsible for the actions of their citizens abroad.[/quote]

The article points to evidence that Canadian mining corporations have often operated with little regard for nature reserves and protected areas, and have depleted scarce water supplies, neglected indigenous rights and disrupted communities and created health problems through air, water and land pollution. “Each year, a number of protestors who raise concerns against mining activities are seriously injured, persecuted, or even killed.”

Goldcorp mines outrage in Guetemala

That appears to be the case at a gold- and silver-mining operation in Guatemala run by a subsidiary of Canada’s Goldcorp. According to the Guardian, it’s drawn numerous local complaints for “intimidation, threats, social division, violence, bribery and corruption of local authorities, destruction and contamination of water sources, livestock dying, houses shaking, cracked walls, the criminalization of protest, forest cleared, and appalling health impacts such as malnutrition and skin diseases.”

An indigenous man who spoke against the mine was beaten and burned alive by hooded men who first questioned him about anti-mining activities. Goldcorp has denied the allegations.

Lawsuits could lift “corporate veil”

In the past, Canadian companies haven’t been held responsible for actions of foreign subsidiaries — but that may change. A number of people from Eritrea and Guatemala are suing three Canadian mining companies in Canadian courts for alleged abuses at mines in those countries, which include forced labour, human rights violations and assault.

The Financial Post said lawyers are getting around the “corporate veil” by “suing the Canadian parents for negligence and other traditional torts on the grounds that management hasn’t lived up to the standards outlined in their public pronouncements.” In other words, the companies are being held globally to the standards they publicly claim at home.

Mining is important but, as with much human activity in the face of rapidly growing populations, we must learn to develop and use resources in ways that aren’t wasteful, destructive and unsustainable. And mining companies must be held to high standards for environmental and human rights protection — at home and abroad.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundations Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

First Nations occupy mining equipment in Sacred Headwaters

Mining company steps back from Sacred Headwaters standoff

First Nations occupy mining equipment in Sacred Headwaters
A group of Tahltans and their supporters peacefully occupied Fortune’s drill in early September

Fortune Minerals announced Monday it will voluntarily stand down from an escalating conflict with the local Tahltan First Nation. The Common Sense Canadian has been reporting on the standoff over a proposed mine in northwest BC’s Sacred Headwaters region since it began in August, when First Nations elders issued the company an eviction notice, demanding it cease exploratory drilling.

The Tahltan are upset at Fortune, which is seeking to build a controversial open-pit coal mine amid ecologically-sensitive territory. Perhaps even more so, they’ve been frustrated with Christy Clark’s Liberal Government, which abandoned a campaign promise to protect the Sacred Headwaters by fast-tracking the environmental assessment of Fortune’s Arctos anthracite coal mine.

Following several failed, emergency meetings with the company and RCMP, a statement issued by the group leading the protest late last week suggested they were ready to go to jail over the project. Said Klabona Keepers spokesperson Rhoda Quock:

[quote]We dare Fortune to get us arrested! We have cameras here. We will make sure the world knows what’s going on…In fact, we think our arrests may come this weekend.[/quote]

The group’s anger was pushed to new heights by a government press release last Tuesday, stating the province would step in to “mediate” the conflict “in an effort to allow the Arctos project to proceed.” After months of sitting on the sidelines in a conflict very much of its own making, the government’s foray into the standoff only served to inflame tensions.

Iskut Band Chief Marie Quock shot back in a Friday media advisory:

[quote]The government’s statement has infuriated our people. It suggests the coal mine’s approval is a foregone conclusion.[/quote]

In its own press release Monday, Fortune said that while it remains fully committed to the project, it “will voluntarily cease its summer field program activities and withdraw from the project site for several months to allow the Tahltan and BC Governments to continue their talks.”

Said CEO Robin Goad:

[quote]It is our sincere hope that this show of good faith by Fortune will help bring resolution to issues at and near our Arctos project site including any protests.[/quote]

Watch for updates on reaction from the Klabona Keepers and government.


Mine's CEO to meet with Tahltan elders in Sacred Headwaters over eviction notice

Tahltan’s Sacred Headwaters defence has deep roots

Mine's CEO to meet with Tahltan elders in Sacred Headwaters over eviction notice
Tahltan elders and supporters in the Sacred Headwaters (

Few places on our planet have been unaffected by humans. Satellite images taken from hundreds of kilometres above Earth reveal a world irrevocably changed by our land use over just the past few decades.

From Arctic tundra to primeval rainforest to arid desert, our natural world is being fragmented by ever-expanding towns and cities, roads, transmission lines and pipelines, and pockmarked by mines, pump jacks, flare stacks and other infrastructure used to drill, frack and strip-mine fossil fuels.

Areas that have remained relatively free of industrial development have thus taken on a special significance. They’re places where a wide range of animals feed, breed and roam in large numbers, where rivers run wild and indigenous people fish, hunt and practise traditional ways.

‘Serengeti of the North’ lacks proper protection

In Canada, they include awe-inspiring landscapes like the boreal forests of Pimachiowin Aki in northern Manitoba, Gwaii Haanas off Canada’s West Coast and the Sacred Headwaters (called Tl’abāne in the local Tahltan language and pronounced Klabona in English) in northwestern B.C. The latter is the birthplace of three of the continent’s great salmon rivers, the Stikine, Skeena and Nass.

The rivers of the Sacred Headwaters originate close together, as small streams percolating from beneath rich meadows on the high plateau. Fed by waters from the surrounding mountains and valleys, they drive toward the North Pacific Ocean with great force, shooting through gorges that rival the Grand Canyon in grandeur and cascading over breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls.

Unblemished by dams, clearcuts or mines, and with an abundance of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, caribou and the world’s largest population of stone sheep, the Sacred Headwaters has been called the Serengeti of the North.

Places like the Sacred Headwaters owe their continued existence to indigenous peoples who have lived there for thousands of years, and who have consistently resisted incursions of industrial development that would harm their ancestral lands – often putting their own bodies on the line to block trucks, earth-movers and drilling equipment.

But while Pimachiowin Aki and Gwaii Haanas are now thankfully protected under law, the Sacred Headwaters is not. It remains at risk from a multitude of proposed mines, railways, transmission lines and other projects that will eviscerate the landscape if approved.

Coal mine threatens Sacred Headwaters

The projects include a 44-square-kilometre open-pit anthracite coal mine that would level Klappan Mountain, at the very heart of the Sacred Headwaters. The mine, proposed by Fortune Minerals, a small company based in London, Ontario, would devastate land the B.C. government led the Tahltan Nation to believe would be protected.

The Tahltan are not opposed to all industrial development, and have partnered with many resource companies to generate jobs and economic opportunities for their community. But they believe some places, like the Sacred Headwaters, are too important to be developed and should be safeguarded. The Tahltan earlier stopped one of the world’s largest corporations, Royal Dutch Shell, from fracking the area for coalbed methane gas. On August 16, they issued Fortune Minerals an immediate eviction notice.

Tahltan blocking mine

First Nations occupy mining equipment in Sacred Headwaters
A group of Tahltans and their supporters peacefully occupied Fortune’s drill last week

As I write, the Tahltan, including elders who were arrested while keeping Fortune Minerals out of the Sacred Headwaters a decade ago, have gathered at their usual hunting camp on Klappan Mountain to peacefully oppose the mining company, which began test-drilling earlier this summer, with the government’s approval.

Tahltan First Nation members have been joined by non-aboriginal allies, such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. With the support of the wider community, which has brought food, water, firewood and other essentials, the Tahltan are vowing to stay on Mount Klappan until Fortune Minerals leaves the Sacred Headwaters for good.

American poet Gary Snyder has been quoted as saying, “The most radical thing you can do is stay home.” The phrase has come to have many associations, most notably to describe a sense of place and the profound power of communities coming together to protect it.

Snyder’s poetic description of what is a radical is an appropriate portrayal of the Tahltan’s peaceful defence of their Sacred Headwaters home. The word “radical” originates with the Latin for “root” or “having roots”. The Tahltan’s presence in the Sacred Headwaters is ancient and deeply rooted and will not easily be removed.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada Director General Faisal Moola.

The End of Coal?

The End of Coal?

The End of Coal?
China is coal’s last great hope – but even that may be changing

by Jonathan Fahey

NEW YORK – The future of coal is getting darker.

Economic forces, pollution concerns and competition from cleaner fuels are slowly nudging nations around the globe away from the fuel that made the industrial revolution possible.

The U.S. will burn 943 million tons of coal this year, only about as much as it did in 1993. Now it’s on the verge of adopting pollution rules that may all but prohibit the construction of new coal plants. And China, which burns 4 billion tons of coal a year — as much as the rest of the world combined — is taking steps to slow the staggering growth of its coal consumption and may even be approaching a peak.

China: The beginning and end of coal

Michael Parker, a commodities analyst at Bernstein Research, calls the shift in China “the beginning of the end of coal.” While global coal use is almost certain to grow over the next few years — and remain an important fuel for decades after that — coal may soon begin a long slow decline.

Coal has been the dominant fuel for power generation for a century because it is cheap, plentiful, and easy to ship and store. But it emits a host of pollution-forming gases and soot particles, and double the greenhouse gas emissions of its closest fossil fuel competitor, natural gas. Now utilities are relying more on natural gas to generate electricity as discoveries around the world boost the fuel’s supplies. The big, expanding economies of China and India are building more nuclear and hydro-electric power plants. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, while still a small fraction of the global energy mix, are growing fast as they get cheaper. And a greater emphasis on efficiency is tempering global growth in electricity demand.

U.S. coal consumption lowest in 20 years

In the U.S., coal production is on track to fall to a 20-year low of just over 1 billion tons this year. In the first half of the year, 151 U.S. coal mines that employed 2,658 workers were idled, according to a study conducted by SNL Energy, an energy-market data and analysis firm. Last month the U.S. government held an auction for mining rights to a prime, coal-rich tract of land in Wyoming and didn’t attract a single bid.

Later this week, the Obama Administration is expected to announce a rule that would cap the amount of carbon dioxide that new power plants are allowed to emit. The new limits appear to be impossible for coal plants to meet without carbon-trapping technology that analysts say would be prohibitively expensive — if it were even available commercially yet.

The coal industry and energy forecasters have long known that clean-air rules and competition from natural gas would make the U.S. a tough market for coal. But they predicted that rising coal demand in Asia, and particularly China, would more than make up for the slowing U.S. demand and power strong growth for coal companies for years to come.

China’s coal demand to peak by 2020

Now even that last great hope for coal may be fading. In a report published earlier this month Citibank analysts suggested that “one of the most unassailable assumptions in global energy markets” — that coal demand would continue to rise in China for the foreseeable future — may be flawed. Bernstein Research reached similar conclusions in a report published in June.

Both reports predict coal demand in China will peak before 2020. Bernstein researchers predict Chinese demand will top out at 4.3 billion tons in 2015 and begin to fall by 2016. China is far and away the most important country for the world’s coal industry: Between 2007 and 2012, growth in Chinese coal consumption accounted for all of total global growth, according to Bernstein. Without China, world demand fell 1.2 per cent over the period.


But Chinese economic growth, which averaged 10 per cent for the 10 years ended in 2012, is expected to slow to 5 per cent to 8 per cent over the next decade. At the same time, the Chinese economy is expected to require less energy to grow, and other forms of generation such as nuclear, hydro-electric and renewables are elbowing into coal’s turf. And government officials are responding to public outcry over China’s notoriously unhealthy air. Last week Chinese authorities announced they would ban new coal fired power plants from three important industrial regions around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

In the view of Bernstein analysts:

[quote]All industrialized societies eventually decide that, while cheap sneakers are nice, the environmental damage caused by uncontrolled industrial activity is no longer tolerable.[/quote]

If these new predictions come to pass, it would spell more lean times for coal miners in major coal exporting countries such as the U.S., Australia and Indonesia. At the same time, the shift would give a major boost to efforts to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and pollutants such as mercury and sulfur dioxide.

Cleaner coal too costly?

Outfitting coal plants with scrubbers and other pollution-trapping equipment makes coal-fired power much more expensive and makes other technologies, including renewable power, comparably less expensive.

“The economics, finally, are at our backs,” says Bruce Nilles, who directs the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

Coal industry predicts better days ahead

To the coal industry, this is simply a lull that plagues commodity markets every few years. A global oversupply of coal that developed last year pushed prices dramatically lower and forced companies to cut back. That glut is now being burned through, the industry says.

Even if economic growth in places like China and India isn’t quite what it was over the last decade, it will still remain strong enough to keep global demand rising for many years, some analysts and industry executives say.

Says Vic Svec, investor relations chief at Peabody Energy:

[quote]Coal has several decades of long-term growth ahead of it.


Peabody, which is the world’s largest investor-owned coal producer, predicts that between 2012 and 2017 the world will need an additional 1.3 billion tons of coal per year — one-third more than the entire U.S. consumes in a year.

“Maybe today (Asia) doesn’t need our coal because there is over-supply and lower prices, but that will change,” says Michael Dudas, a coal company analyst at Stern Agee.

But a growing number of experts are beginning to reconsider the long-held assumption that the developing world will consume ever more coal just the way the developed world once did.

“The era of wanton Chinese coal demand growth is approaching an end,” wrote Citibank analyst Anthony Yuen.

Jonathan Fahey can be reached at .

Sacred Headwaters mine stand-off: Meeting CEO fails to ease tensions

Sacred Headwaters mine stand-off: Meeting CEO fails to ease tensions

Sacred Headwaters mine stand-off: Meeting CEO fails to ease tensions
Aug. 17 emergency meeting between Tahltan First Nations and Fortune Minerals CEO Robin Goad (

An emergency Saturday evening meeting between Fortune Minerals CEO Robin Goad and the Tahltan Nation elders who recently issued his company an eviction notice from their territory failed to resolve tensions over a proposed mine, according to local environmental group, Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition.

The meeting, also attended Anita McPhee, president of the Tahltan Central Council – the political body which represents several bands and 5,000 members throughout the region – and Marie Quock, chief of the nearby Iskut Band Council, took place at Beauty Camp, a historic hunting and fishing outpost amid the Klappan, or “Sacred Headwaters”, approximately 330 km northeast of Prince Rupert.

The birthplace of three major BC salmon rivers – the Skeena, the Nass and the Stikine – the Klappan has been the site of intense conflict over resource development on several previous occasions. Just last December, Shell Oil abandoned its decade-long campaign for coal bed methane development in the region, following years of ardent Tahltan protest.

Recently, Tahltan elders have shifted their focus to Fortune Minerals’ exploratory drilling for its proposed 4,000 hectare Arctos open-pit anthracite coal mine, which would involve blowing the top off of Mount Klappan. Tahltan concerns culminated in the arrival of 30 or more elders and their supporters in the Klappan last week, and the issuance of an eviction notice to the company.

“We didn’t fight Shell for ten years so a coal company could come along and build an open pit mine in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters,” says Mary Dennis, a Tahltan elder. “We’ve stopped bigger industrial projects before and we’ll do it again with help from our supporters and allies.”

On August 15, following an initial visit to Beauty Camp by three Fortune employees, with an RCMP escort, a mutual cooling off was agreed to, pending Saturday’s follow-up meeting with Goad.

The following is an excerpted account of the meeting from Skeena Watershed’s Dana Hibbard:

…Fortune Minerals arrived with an RCMP escort. Chairs were set up and the meeting was called to order with a sense of urgency as the helicopters needed to take off in less than an hour to make it back to Terrace before night fall. With Mount Klappan immediately in the background Fortune Minerals’ representatives introduced themselves to four generations of Tahltan people, united in their opposition to Fortune’s plans to develop a coal mine in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters.

The meeting got off to an awkward start as Robin Goad, CEO of Fortune Minerals, recognized the Tahtltan’s responsibility to the stewardship of their land and then attested that his company also had a “historic responsibility” to the area. The members of the crowd looked around at each other, incredulous that this man could compare Fortune Minerals’ thirteen years in the Klappan to the millennia that the Tahltan have spent living in and protecting the Sacred Headwaters. This disregard for the Tahltan people, their Aboriginal Rights and Title and their ancient cultural and spiritual connection to the area continued throughout the meeting.

Incredibly, at one point Goad disputed with the Tahltan as to which mountain is actually Mount Klappan. He claimed that his coal mine was not on Mount Klappan but was on the mountain behind him. The crowd cried in unison “that IS Mount Klappan.”  Goad momentarily tried to deny this, but soon fell silent.

Although he initially recognized that he was on Tahltan territory, Goad continually asserted his company’s legal right to be in the area. He also referenced the millions of dollars his company and their investors have spent to develop their project. He asked the Tahltan to respect his investors. With the shouts and laughter of children playing in the background McPhee responded that the Tahltan also have investors, their children are their investors!…

…Rather than look for solutions between his company and the Tahltan people Goad said over and over that the Tahltan need to respect the environmental assessment process and that they should convey their concerns to the Government of BC.

Goad’s concern stems in part from the confusing leadership being shown on the file from the BC Liberal Government. His company is operating under approved exploration permits, while undergoing an environmental assessment for the mine. After promising to protect the Klappan in this year’s provincial election, eliciting praise from local leaders like McPhee, less than a month following the provincial election, the Clark Government triggered accusations of breaking this campaign promise with the “fast-tracking” of the environmental assessment of Fortune’s project.

This duplicitous approach from the province has clearly led to frustrations for both Fortune and First Nations. “I am not surprised that our people are taking action against Fortune Minerals,” said McPhee, on learning of the elders’ recent initiative. “We have had concerns with a coal mine in the Klappan for many years and our people want to see the Klappan/Sacred Headwaters permanently protected.”

According to Skeena Watershed’s Hibbard, “Goad is also sending mixed signals. He repeatedly stated his respect for the Tahltan First Nation and repeatedly ignored their requests that his company leave their territory. When Goad made reference to how the Tahltan are frustrating his company’s work, Marie Quock responded that his company is frustrating her people’s lifestyle and their ability to hunt for food.”

“Annita McPhee spoke of the Resolution that was recently unanimously passed by the Tahltan to protect the Klappan. Making reference to the many developments the Tahltan have decided to allow on their territory she continued on to say that there are some places the Tahltan have to protect and they were drawing the line.”

Clearly, Saturday’s meeting failed to yield a positive resolution to the mounting tensions over Fortune’s exploratory work and the fast-tracked – or as Goad prefers, “streamlined” – environmental assessment for its proposed mine.

Update: A spokesperson for the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines declined to comment on the story at this time.

Mine's CEO to meet with Tahltan elders in Sacred Headwaters over eviction notice

Mine’s CEO to meet with Tahltan elders in Sacred Headwaters over eviction notice

Mine's CEO to meet with Tahltan elders in Sacred Headwaters over eviction notice
Tahltan elders and supporters in the Sacred Headwaters (

Fortune Minerals CEO Robin Goad is reportedly flying into the Sacred Headwaters, in northwest BC, for an emergency discussion this evening with elders of the Tahltan Nation. The 5 pm meeting will address the eviction notice issued by a group of 30 or more Tahltan elders, referring to themselves as the Klabona Keepers, to Goad’s company on Wednesday, according to Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. McPhail, whose organization is supporting the elders’ action, has spent the week at their camp, amid Tahltan traditional territory in the Klappan, or “Sacred Headwaters”.

The Klappan is the birthplace of three major BC salmon rivers – the Skeena, the Nass and the Stikine.

Tahltan elders have a successful track record of turning away unwanted development from their territory, having convinced Shell Oil to abandon its proposed coal bed methane operations in the same location last year.

“We didn’t fight Shell for ten years so a coal company could come along and build an open pit mine in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters,” says Mary Dennis, a Tahltan elder. “We’ve stopped bigger industrial projects before and we’ll do it again with help from our supporters and allies.”

Fortune Minerals has been conducting exploratory drilling – under approved permits from the BC Government – for anthracite coal, in preparation for a proposed 4,000 hectare open-pit mine that would involve blowing off the top of Mount Klappan, a sacred site for the Tahltan peoples. The proposed Arctos Anthracite Project, currently under provincial environmental review, sits next to the Spatsizi Wilderness Area, approximately 330 km northeast of Prince Rupert – an important ancestral hunting and fishing site for Tahltans.

Following the 24-hour eviction notice issued on August 14, three representatives of Fortune Minerals visited the elders’ camp on Thursday evening, says McPhail. The meeting resulted in a temporary truce between the company and representatives of the Klabona Keepers – with Fortune agreeing to halt exploration activities pending today’s meeting with the company’s CEO.

The Tahltan Central Council, which represents several bands with 5,000 members throughout the region, recently passed a unanimous resolution opposing industrial development in the Sacred Headwaters. Says TCC President Annita McPhee, “I am not surprised that our people are taking action against Fortune Minerals, we have had concerns with a coal mine in the Klappan for many years and our people want to see the Klappan/Sacred Headwaters permanently protected.”

“Fortune Minerals’ project is located in a critically important area that requires long term management and protection to preserve cultural and ecological values for the Tahltan people, and all of B.C.”

The BC Liberals also made protecting the Klappan a campaign promise in this year’s provincial election, eliciting praise from local leaders like McPhee. “We are very encouraged that the Provincial Government has committed to working with us to develop a protection vision for the Klappan,” she noted. “It is time to start building long term solutions that will protect our land and culture.”

Yet, less than a month following the provincial election, the Liberal Government triggered accusations of breaking this campaign promise, with the “fast-tracking” of the environmental assessment of Fortune’s project – leaving many in the region confused as to Premier Clark’s real intentions.

Ministry of Environment spokesperson Suntanu Dalal defended the province’s actions in June, suggesting the government would establish a provincial roundtable, including representatives from First Nations, industry, labour and environmental groups, “to provide guidance to government on how to balance the need to protect important parts of the environment with the need to create jobs and wealth.”

For her organization’s part, says Skeena Watershed’s McPhail, “Fortune Minerals couldn’t have picked a worse place to try and build an open-pit coal mine. This project is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the company should withdraw, rather than angering local communities over a project that will never be built.”

Tahltan elder-led blockades have a history of lasting for months at a time. A 2005 action against Fortune Minerals barred the company from entering the Klappan, resulting in 15 arrests and a protracted legal battle. Years of similar protests compelled Shell to abandon its gas tenures in the region last December.

Watch for a follow-up report on the outcome of today’s meeting.


Appalachia-North? 18 new coal mine proposals for Comox Valley


The Comox Valley citizens’ group that recently sent a proposed coal mine application back to the drawing board has discovered a staggering 18 new coal mine applications throughout the same central Vancouver Island region.

The discovery comes on the heels of a broad-based public campaign, driven by Coalwatch Comox Valley, which successfully blocked the proposed Raven Coal Mine through its environmental assessment. The organization managed to drive thousands of people to public hearings opposing the project, which threatened the local shellfish economy, one of the region’s biggest employers.

This new batch of applications was filed with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas by Feisa Resources Canada and Golden River Resources Inc. during a two-week period from May 10 to May 24, 2013.

CoalWatch issued the following statement in reaction to the findings:

Golden River Resource Inc. has filed 8 coal license applications, with 4 applications in the Anderson Lake area, just north of Comox Lake, and 4 applications in the Oyster River area. The total area covered in the Golden River applications is 9,075 hectares.

Feisa Resources Canada has filed 10 coal license applications in the Fanny Bay-Union Bay-Royston area. The total area covered in the Feisa Resources applications is 13,312.5 hectares. These Feisa applications appear to be for exactly the same coal that is targeted for the proposed Raven Underground Coal Project.

“We were stunned to see this amount of new coal license applications covering such a large area of the Comox Valley”, said CoalWatch president John Snyder. “The applications in the Anderson Lake area are a huge concern due to their proximity to the Puntledge and Tsolum River watersheds”.

“ It’s shocking there’s been no public notice on these coal license applications, other than being listed on an obscure government website. These applications are the first stage in any future coal mine exploration or development, and there needs to be more transparency and public notice when these are filed,” added Snyder.

On two recent coal license applications in the Anderson Lake and Oyster River areas, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) passed a motion requesting no license be issued due to concern that coal mine exploration, and further coal mine development, impacts existing industries.

“CoalWatch intends to monitor the review process on these new coal license applications, and if the CVRD is asked to comment on these applications, we’ll notify the public so they can voice their concerns”, said Snyder. “These latest applications are the first step on the slippery slope of transforming the Comox Valley into what many fear would be a mini-Appalachian type coal mine region”.


Province, Public Opposition Halt Raven Coal Mine Proposal


A May 16 decision by the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to reject the proposed Raven Coal Mine on Vancouver Island should be seen as a victory for citizen mobilization. The project has sparked widespread protest in communities around the proposed mine and in Port Alberni, where a coal port is proposed to export the product to Asia.

The decision, made known in a letter from the EAO to the project’s proponent last week, sends the ironically named Compliance Coal Corporation back to square one with its project – owing to an abundance of unanswered questions in the company’s 12,000-page initial submission. The project is a joint-venture between Canadian, Japanese and Korean companies and would see a mine built in the midst of a thriving shellfish industry in Fanny Bay, which employs 600 locals.

Having gone through the early stages of environmental assessment over the past couple years, the project was denied the opportunity to proceed further with its current proposal. A jubilant John Snyder ofCoalWatch Comox Valley – a group formed to deal with the threat of the mine – remarked on the verdict, “A review of the screening comments seems to indicate significant gaps in the Application, some of it having to do with public, First Nations, and stakeholder consultation; hydrology issues; and marine baseline studies.”

Snyder added, “There’s no doubt that public scrutiny and the concerns voiced by local governments, First Nations, and stakeholders like the BC Shellfish Growers Association, played a role in this decision by the EAO. While Compliance could decide to resubmit another Application, this rejection by the EAO adds to an already significant headwind Compliance is facing in getting their project approved.”

Groups like Snyder’s and Coal Free Alberni had helped drive hundreds of people out to packed public hearings on the mine – and a near-record 5,000 public submissions addressing a draft document referred to as the AIR/EIS (Application Information Requirement/Environmental Impact Statement). The local K’ómoks First Nation made its opposition known as well.

In a statement issued today by Compliance in response to the BC EAO’s decision, CEO John Tapics downplayed the challenges facing the project’s future, noting, “The screening review is a scan of the Application for the purposes of determining whether the AIR have been met, and does not constitute an in depth review to determine whether or not issues have been addressed and resolved to EAO’s satisfaction. Receipt of Application screening comments is typical and not unexpected after a first review.”

Tapics indicated his company’s intention to submit a new draft AIR/EIS document addressing the many unanswered questions in the original: “The Company and its consultants are in the process of reviewing the comments returned by the EAO and plan to provide clarification or additional information and then resubmit the Application for further review once the comments have been adequately addressed.”

Regardless of the company’s next steps, the initial rejection of the project is strong validation the public campaign against it – which is sure to be even more emboldened to battle Compliance should it follow through with a second pass at building Raven Coal Mine.

The decision, says Wilderness Committee’s Island campaigner Torrance Coste, “is just another indication that this mine doesn’t belong on Vancouver Island.”