The Raven Underground Coal Mine would be situated just 5 km from Fanny Bay Wharf (shown here) in Baynes Sound on Vancouver Island (photo: John Snyder)

Raven Coal Mine Proposal: Damien Gillis’ Letter


As the window for public comments draws to a close in the first stage of the environmental review process for the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine, nearly 2,000 comments have been submitted thus far from diverse individuals and organizations. Comments can still be sent by mail, so long as they are postmarked by no later than June 30, 2011. Here is Damien Gillis’ letter to the environmental assessment process.


I was born and raised on Vancouver Island, not far north of Baynes Sound, the site of the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine. I have a deep affection for the Island, its ecologies, and particularly for Fanny Bay Oysters.

I am also quite partial to Port Alberni, its wild salmon, and local natural wonders like the Somass River, Cathedral Grove and Cameron Lake.

Moreover, I am gravely concerned with a globalized economic system that sees us ship raw logs and dirty coal halfway around the the world in bunker diesel-powered ships, putting the Canadian manufacturing sector out of business while poorly-paid Asian workers labour in coal-fired plants, fashioning those Canadian raw materials into finished goods – then shipping them all the way back to us to stock the shelves at Walmart and Home Depot. It is a profoundly inefficient and unsustainable system that depends on abundant, cheap fossil fuels (including Canadian coal like that which would be pulled from under Baynes Sound were this project to go forth), carrying unacceptable ecological consequences and very few commensurate economic benefits for the people of BC. This Raven Mine is not only the epitome of a truly insane socio-economic system – but it would greatly help facilitate its advancement.

For all of these reasons, I am steadfastly opposed to the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine proposal.

Since jobs and the economy are invariably the argument proffered by proponents of such projects, I feel I must specifically address this contention. The Raven project makes no sense economically for British Columbians, particularly in the communities directly affected by the project. The jobs offered pale in comparison to those threatened in the thriving local shellfish industry (600 jobs), tourism and retirement-orineted real estate, among other industries.

The associated truck traffic threatens the entire corridor from Fanny Bay to Port Alberni – including major tourism destinations in Combs, Cathedral Grove and Cameron and Sproat Lakes, not to mention Port Alberni’s world-famous salmon sport fishing industry. There is also the risk to the entire community of Port Alberni and surrounding ecosystems from the proposed 80,000 tonne coal storage facility at a new coal port to be built for the project. The mere notion of putting a coal storage facility in the midst of Canada’s most dangerous Tsunami zone is incomprehensible – especially in light of what we have all witnessed recently in Fukushima, Japan.

These aren’t whimsical what-ifs. These are serious questions that need to be fully accounted for in an honest and comprehensive risk assessment of the project. When when does so, it is clear that the risks absolutely dwarf the rewards from this project. Not, of course, for proponent Compliance Energy – but for the people of BC. And that is your one and only concern as public servants in reviewing this project. The Raven Mine is not, nor will it ever be with any amount of mitigation, an acceptable risk for the people and environment of this province and region.

In an era of climate change, peak oil, collapsing salmon stocks and ecologies, the Raven proposal would be taking us in precisely the wrong direction. We citizens have a duty to our fellow Canadians and our local ecosystems, but also to the world to do our part to ensure a more sustainable future for all. We are plainly not carrying our share of the load – and the Raven Coal Mine would only exacerbate that troubling trend.

You have heard from – at the time of this writing – some 1,800 individuals and organizations almost exclusively urging you to reject the Raven Underground Coal Mine proposal. The public will is clear and unmistakable on this matter.

I now add my voice to that chorus and hope that you will hear it loud and clear.


Damien Gillis


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.