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.”