Questions, opposition persists to coal mine overlooking Baynes Sound


From the Comox Valley Record – May 31, 2011

by Scott Stanfield

Campbell Connor drew a round of applause by requesting a full expert
panel review, along with aquifer mapping and modelling, as the
environmental assessment phase of the proposed Raven underground coal
mine progresses.

The vice-president of CoalWatch Comox Valley — part of a
standing-room-only crowd that gathered Monday at the Filberg Centre for
the first in a  series of public hearings about the mine — said a
technical committee has compiled a list of “very serious gaps” in the
process after reviewing the draft Application Information Requirements

“The process we’re going through at this moment is less than that which we deserve,” Connor said.

“Overwhelmingly to date public comment has opposed the
mine in its entirety,” CoalWatch president John Snyder said. “We want to
be ensured that public opposition to the mine is noted in the official
record. No means no.”

Representatives from the BC Environmental Assessment
Office, Canada Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and project
proponent Compliance Coal Corporation answered a barrage of questions
from the partisan crowd. Andrew Rollo of the CEAA drew a chorus of boos
when he said the project does not warrant referral to a panel review.

Compliance CEO John Tapics said full aquifer mapping is
being conducted. Early indications show no ill effects on groundwater,
added Tapics, who figures the amount of water used to wash the coal
would be about equal to a medium-sized hotel. Most of the water used in
the operation would be recycled, likely coming from a groundwater

The mine is in the pre-application stage. The Raven
coal deposit covers about 3,100 hectares in Baynes Sound adjacent to
Buckley Bay. The coal is classified as high volatile A Bituminous, which
Compliance says is suitable for the metallurgical market. Tapics said a
feasibility study indicates the underground mine would leave a “small
surface footprint.”

Opponents say the mine poses a threat to air and water
quality, and to salmon habitats and the shellfish industry in Fanny Bay.
Polluting the Cowie Creek watershed is another concern, as is trucking
coal along the Inland Highway to Port Alberni. Tapics said about one
ship would leave the port each month.

Mike Morel, a biologist from Denman Island, suggests
the study area is too small and should include, at minimum, all Raven
streams and wetlands.

Rudy Friesen said coal burned overseas will produce
about two million tons of carbon dioxide a year while the Raven mine

Robert McDonald said coal gas methane would have an even greater impact on climate change and global warming.

“Climate change is the most pressing issue for my
generation,” said Victoria’s Cameron Gray, a member of the Wilderness
Committee. “How can you proceed in good faith knowing coal is the
dirtiest of industries?”

His question garnered a standing ovation and spurred chants of ‘No more coal.’

Rachel Shaw of the BC EAO said government, rather than
making pre-determinations, considers the science and public opinion
before making decisions.

“I absolutely oppose this mine,” Diana Schroeder said.
“Mr. Tapics, can you tell us how much mineral tax you will pay from the
net profits?”

Tapics said the corporation and workers will pay
“significant income tax” but no mineral tax will be paid because it is a
privately owned resource.

The mine is expected to operate 16 years, and produce
about 350 full-time jobs, 200 construction jobs and 400 to 500 spinoff
jobs. Tapics said the average mining salary is about $100,000 a year.

Government says B.C.’s $6-billion mining industry
helped power an economic recovery in 2010. Spurred by increased demand
from China, B.C. increased steel-making metallurgical coal production by
20 per cent to about 26 million tons last year.

Additional public hearings on Raven Coal will be held
Thursday at the Port Alberni Athletic Hall and Friday at the Union Bay
Community Club.

The public has until June 27 to comment on the draft AIR and Environmental Impact Statement Guidelines. Visit

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.