Tag Archives: Raven Coal Mine

Government Pushes Raven Coal Mine to Next Stage, Comox Valley Residents Remain Defiant


The recently released Application Information Requirements/Environmental Impact Statement (AIR/EIS) Guidelines Document on the Raven Underground Coal Mine Project signals the end of the Pre-application Stage of the Environmental Assessment (EA) process and sets the table for the next stage, which is the Application Stage. This AIR/EIS document is partly the culmination of several years of public consultation, which included 3 public meetings and 3 public comment periods, resulting in a near record 5,000 written comments submitted. Over 95% of the written comments expressed concern or opposition to the project.

In theory, the purpose of the public consultation was to produce an AIR/EIS that would adequately address the public concerns about the massive coal mine’s negative impacts on the region’s water aquifers, the Baynes Sound shellfish industry, air and noise pollution, and socio-economic issues, just to name a few. Not surprisingly, the early reviews of the AIR/EIS show a document that is largely deficient, and the AIR/EIS has not adequately addressed the public’s concerns. Since the proponent’s application will be based on the AIR/EIS document, it’s clear that the application will be flawed and not address the public’s numerous and legitimate concerns, and moreover the future EA process on this project will not be rigorous or comprehensive.

Despite widespread public concern and opposition, and the lack of a social license being granted by the residents of the Comox Valley and Port Alberni, the EA process continues to move forward. However, the huge public outcry over the coal mine proposal is growing louder every day and the communities impacted by the Raven Mine are united more than ever in their opposition to this insane proposal.

In the coming months we’ll continue to strengthen our message of concern and opposition to the Raven Mine, and make it clear to our local, provincial, and federal elected officials that this project is unacceptable. With the provincial election just around the bend, you never know, some of them might actually listen.

A lot of twists and turns left to go in this saga, and as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Stay tuned.

John Snyder is a resident of Fanny Bay, BC, and the president of CoalWatch Comox Valley


Shades of Green: Agnotology – The Propagation of Doubt


“Agnotology” is a new and useful word coined in 1992 by Dr. Robert Proctor of Stanford University to designate the study of ignorance. We give a huge amount of attention to knowing, to “gnosis”, he contended, but little attention to its opposite, “agnosis” (Guardian Weekly, July 1/11).

At first glance, agnotology seems like an oxymoron. Surely, if we know something about not-knowing then we must have shed some ignorance? Precisely. And this is the interesting twist about agnotology. It is the deliberate and skilful cultivation and dissemination of not-knowing – doubt – for the specific purpose of manufacturing confusion. And one of its most famous practitioners has been the tobacco industry.

When the awful health effects of smoking were first suspected, the tobacco industry went into damage control by using misleading studies to advertise the benefits of smoking. But its more sophisticated strategy was to create doubt about the disadvantages of smoking. This was done with an ingenious deviousness. “It is less well known,” writes Dr. Proctor, “but tobacco companies also spent large amounts subsidizing good quality bio-medical research in fields such as virology, genetics and immunology. They funded the work of several Nobel prize winners. But they only encouraged this research to serve as a distraction.” The strategic objective was not to find the cause of cancer but to generate credible evidence that diseases attributed to smoking could be caused by something else. “In court cases involving the industry, its lawyers always highlighted viral risks, the pre-disposition of certain families, and so on, to play down tobacco-related risks.”

Sound familiar? “In fact,” writes the science historian Peter Galison of Harvard University, “those who seek to produce ignorance on a given topic generally advocate more research. The fact that all the details have not been resolved sustains the illusion of an ongoing debate on the whole subject. A key concern of American neocreationists is to ‘Teach the controversy’.” Or, in a memo from the tobacco company Brown & Williamson that phrases the strategy even more bluntly, “Doubt is our product.” The objective is to create the impression that doubt exists in the scientific community when, in fact, there is none on the basic issue.

While this strategy has been used to defend smoking and creationism, it has also been used to cast doubt on solid scientific evidence concerning acid rain, ozone depletion, species extinction, melting glaciers, ocean acidification and the larger issue of anthropogenic climate change. When Naomi Oreskes, a science historian from the University of California, was trying to understand the basis for criticism of her book, Merchants of Doubt, she found that three scientists were the primary source. They were founders in 1984 of the conservative George C. Marshall Institute, originally funded by the tobacco industry and more recently by fossil-fuel interests. This Institute is solely driven by a political ideology that takes umbrage with any science that interferes with America’s free-market economy and freedom-of-choice philosophy. Controlling global climate change requires constraints that the Institute construes as another form of the communist threat, a threat combatted with a sophisticated pseudo science that looks authoritative but isn’t.

So, how is the lay public to know the difference between real science and pseudo-science? This is the obvious problem created by agnotology and cultivated by those who want to propagate doubt. Some hints are obvious. First, pseudo-science tends to be contrarian, arguing against a momentum of scientific evidence reached by peer-reviewed research and careful empiricism. Second, those who have economic interests usually take a position that favours their profits – so follow the money. Three, use one of Einstein’s “thought experiments” to imaginatively extend the claim to its logical extreme – if the extremity is absurd then the claim is questionable. And four, consider ideologies. Pseudo-science usually supports a belief system. Real science is evidence-based and follows where the data leads, regardless of threats to paradigms of thought or to individual and corporate interests.

Now apply this information to any current, local or global issue. It might be the expansion of the Quinsam Coal facilities in Campbell River, the proposed Raven coal mine in the Comox Valley, the construction of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the West Coast at Kitimat, the threat to wild fish from sea-lice and disease emanating from open net-pen salmon farms. It might be climate change, ocean acidification, genetic engineering or pesticide use. Those with vested financial interests are inclined to construe evidence to support these interests by minimizing calculated risks, providing assurances of safety – however thin and speculative – and contesting scientific evidence by quibbling about details. Ideology can easily override considerations of public health, social benefit and ecological impact. Indeed, ideology can even colour any sense of evidence and perspective. And, as is now becoming obvious, manufactured doubt can cause environmental and social havoc.

Doubt is normal, healthy and useful. But it can also be exploited by ill-will, self interest and blind ideology. At some point in its confrontation with overwhelming evidence, it becomes obstinate, manipulative, dishonest and destructive. An awareness of agnotology may raise our discrimination sufficiently to discern the difference between legitimate assurances and deceit. The task is challenging and requires constant vigilance. But our future depends on it.

Raven Coal Mine meeting in Courtenay, May 30 - Photo by Carolyn Walton

Comox Valley Ready for Civil Disobedience as “Insane” Raven Coal Mine Review Pushed Forward


A little over two years ago we held a town hall meeting in Fanny Bay, where a standing room only crowd discussed the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine Project. It was at this meeting that concerned citizens formed CoalWatch Comox Valley. The events over the past two years have revealed many interesting details.
It’s clear that the “harmonized” environmental assessment of the Raven Project is deeply flawed. Numerous local governments, community groups, and thousands of British Columbia citizens have called for a more rigorous environmental assessment, a so called independent review panel with public hearings. Unfortunately, the calls for a more rigorous assessment have been rejected at all federal and provincial levels of government.

The near record amount of comments submitted during the two comment periods thus far indicate widespread public concern and opposition to the proposed massive coal mine. Citizens at three public meetings also voiced overwhelming opposition to the Raven Project. The proposed Project is also contradictory to Official Community Plans and Regional Growth Strategies adopted in both the Comox Valley and Port Alberni. Despite all of this, the environmental assessment of the Raven Project is being pushed forward.

It’s fairly obvious that a coal mine project that calls for a mine to be located only 5 kilometers from Baynes Sound, home to a thriving and economically important shellfish industry, is an insane idea. Couple that with an environmental assessment that doesn’t include any mechanism for public consent, and it’s no wonder that the residents of the Comox Valley, Port Alberni, and Vancouver Island are fed up and disgusted.

This cynicism and disgust has led numerous groups and organizations in the Comox Valley to form a Peaceful Direct Action Coalition, to educate the public on peaceful direct action. Many of us see peaceful direct action and civil disobedience, as another tool to use in the fight against this massive coal mine proposal near Fanny Bay.
The year ahead will be a challenging one for those opposed to the Raven Coal Mine Project. But make no mistake, the thousands of people who are opposed to this Project are dedicated, determined, united, and in solidarity, we will be victorious in our fight against this Project.
In solidarity,

John Snyder,  Fanny Bay, BC
President, CoalWatch Comox Valley Society

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

Raven Coal Mine meeting in Courtenay, May 30 - Photo by Carolyn Walton

Raven Coal Mine Hearings Draw Huge Public Opposition


The controversial proposal for an a coal mine in Vancouver Island’s Baynes Sound – home to a thriving shellfish industry – saw large crowds turn out to voice their opposition at three separate public meetings last week. The joint federal and provincial environmental assessment hearings on Compliance Energy’s proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine drew some 1,500 citizens in Courtney, Port Alberni and Union Bay – the vast majority vocally opposed to the project.

“It’s obvious the public has deep concerns about the proposed coal mine and the approval process,” said CoalWatch Comox Valley president John Snyder after the final public meeting concluded in Union Bay Friday night, with over 450 people in attendance.

According to CoalWatch – which, along with Coal Free Alberni, has been leading the swelling public opposition to the project over the past year – Monday’s meeting at the Filberg Centre in Courtney saw nearly 600 people, while 400 attended the Port Alberni meeting on Thursday, with another 600 tuning in online.

The hall in Union Bay was so packed the fire marshal had to restrict access.

In all, a staggering 200 people spoke in opposition to the project, with only one in favour.

“Public opposition to the mine is overwhelming,” said Tria Donaldson, Pacific Coast Campaigner at the Wilderness Committee. “It’s time for the federal and provincial governments to listen to what people are saying. There is simply too much at risk for this proposal to proceed.”

CoalWatch’s John Snyder said people expressed a wide variety of objections to the mine.
“The proposed mine puts hundreds of jobs in the shellfish industry at risk, it threatens our drinking water, air quality, and road safety, and it does not conform the vision our communities have for the future,” he said. “That’s why it’s crucial for the government to establish an independent expert panel review with full public hearings before any further consideration is given to this proposal.”
Now that they’ve have spoken out loud and clear for themselves, we at The Common Sense Canadian are urging our readers around the province to show their support for the people and environment of Vancouver Island. Click here to submit your own comments to the environmental assessment process by June 27.


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 www.eao.gov.bc.ca.

Read original article


A Coal Port in the Storm: Tsunami Risks for Raven Mine Storage Plan


What does Port Alberni have in common with Fukushima, Japan – besides a love for fish? Two things, potentially.

First, according to experts from Emergency Management BC, Port Alberni is located in the heart of the most dangerous Tsunami zone in the country, making it prone to a catastrophe like the one we just witnessed across the Pacific. Second, if Compliance Energy gets its way, the town’s harbour will host a dirty energy facility right in the path of the big wave.

Compliance is the proponent for the Raven Underground Coal Mine, near Fanny Bay, on the opposite side of Vancouver Island. The company wishes to truck its coal from there to Port Alberni – passing through Cathedral Grove along the way – to a coal storage facility in the town’s port, before being loaded onto ships carrying the black gunk to China. This week, the first round of environmental assessment public meetings is taking place on the proposed mine and coal port. The first of these, last night in Courtenay, saw over 500 people turn out to deliver a resounding message to representatives of the Canadian and BC Environmental Assessment Offices, opposing the plan.

Unlike the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima, fatally damaged by the recent earthquake and Tsunami, Port Alberni would be home to an 80,000 tonne coal storage facility – with catastrophic economic, ecological and health consequences for the community and region the next time the big one hits.

In 1964, a massive Tsunami unleashed by an earthquake in Alaska swept over the town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, causing $10 million dollars of damage (in 1964 dollars). Historical records show it is not a question of “if” but “when” the next one will come. There will be more significant earthquakes along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and other tectonic hotspots in the Pacific Ocean – and when they occur, there is the distinct possibility of another Tsunami ploughing its way up Alberni Inlet and causing all manner of devastation.

If there is an 80,000 tonne coal container there, the consequences will be unimaginable. Alberni Inlet is home to, among other ecological treasures, one of Canada’s most prominent salmon rivers, the Somass, which has helped the town lay claim over the years to “Salmon Capital of the World” (a bone of contention with my home town of Campbell River, which used to make the same boast).

According to Coal-Free Alberni president Satcey Gaiga, “The coal would potentially be dispersed throughout 600 hectares based on how far the water would reach in our valley, according to our Provincial Emergency Program information…I can’t believe the Environmental Assessment Offices provincially and federally are even considering these preposterous plans, allowing [Compliance Energy] to continue to go through the environmental assessment process to do this: HOW DO YOU MITIGATE A TSUNAMI?”

Indeed, British Columbians must ask their provincial and federal bureaucrats and politicians, “Have we learned nothing from Fukushima and the nuclear waste continues pouring into our Pacific Ocean?”

The environmental assessment hearings resume this Thursday in Port Alberni for what promises to be a fiery round 2. Click here for a complete schedule.

The CEA Agency and the EAO accept public comments submitted by any of the following means:

  • By Email: raven@ceaa-acee.gc.ca
  • By Fax: 250-356-6448
  • By Mail:

Rachel Shaw, Project Assessment Manager
Environmental Assessment Office
PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9V1


Andrew Rollo, Project Manager
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
320 – 757 West Hastings Street
Vancouver BC V6C 1A1

Click here electronic copy of the draft AIR/EIS Guidelines document and information regarding the environmental assessment process.


Alberni Valley Times: Rafe Mair Speaks Out vs Coal Mine


From the Alberni Valley Times – Feb 21, 2011

by Heather Thomson

More than 300 people gathered at the high school to hear from outspoken radio personality Rafe Mair, and he didn’t disappoint.

The event kicked off with a video by Damien Gillis, who travels with
Mair in the Take Back Our B.C. tour. It focused on the battle being
waged in coastal communities in B.C. to fight the Enbridge pipeline.

Gillis said the idea behind their tour is to make sure people are informed.

“We decided to ramp things up to create this journal so we can reach as
many people as possible,” he said. “We want them to learn more about
the issues that are affecting their community.”

If you want more information about what Mair and Gillis are doing,
go to www.thecanadian.org. You can also check out the videos Gillis has
shot around the province.

From there the talk moved to a more local issue, the fight against opening a coal port in the Alberni Valley.

John Snyder, president of CoalWatch, asked the crowd to get involved.

your vision of the Comox Valley doesn’t include a coal mine and your
Alberni Valley vision doesn’t include a coal port, it’s time to get
involved,” he said. “With your help we can stop this ill-advised
project from happening.”

He said there are a lot of maybes involved in discussions, and maybe none of the things they worry about will come true.

“Maybe we’re all just worried about nothing,” he said. “But it’s not worth the risk.”

Coal Free Alberni’s Stacey Gaiga spoke next on the issue.

She said there hasn’t been a coal mine on Vancouver Island since the 1970s, so why start now?

said the clear message is that coal is “toxic for the community.” That
is why she encouraged people to voice their objections.

“The next public comment period is when you will have your say,” she said. “Please submit your concerns.”

added that the coal port is bad for the Valley because it will damage
the roads, harm the air quality, will mean dredging the Inlet and it
goes against the official community plan that encourages tourism-based
development on the waterfront.

“It’s important that you have your say,” she said.

Mair then took to the stage, immediately taking up the issue of a defunct provincial government.

government no longer has any control over what they do,” he said,
adding that the province is being run by corporations because they have
so much power over B.C.’s elected officials.

He offered the example of the falsehoods the finance minister gave on the subjects of privatization of rivers.

He said the government isn’t doing enough to save the rivers by offering public consultation.

“Not only do we have to have public involvement,” he said. “We have to have public consent.”

He said the problem is that the government isn’t being held accountable for their actions.

“There’s no criticism from the mainstream media,” he said. “We have to be our own media – circulate the message ourselves.”

He said sometimes it is frustrating fighting a battle that has no clear end.

you have to be patient and fight right to the end of the road,” he
said. “You never know you’ve won until you’ve won, so you have to keep

He offered the same words of encouragement when referring to the battle the Alberni Valley is waging against a coal port.

As for the government, he said it’s time to kick them out.

one wants to believe a government can be that stupid, but they are
because they don’t care,” he said. “We can win, we just have to join
hands for a hell of a fight that can save our beautiful province from
the government and corporation that is harming it.”

Gillis offered similar advice on the fight against the coal port. He
said it is possible to win the fight, but everyone will have to band
together to make it one the whole province cares about.

If you would like to know more about these issues go to www.thecanadian.org.

Read original article


Raven Coal Mine’s Port Proposal for Alberni Valley


At a recent event co-sponsored by The Common Sense Canadian, Coal Free Alberni’s Stacey Gaiga discussed the proposed coal port in her community, designed to export coal mined on the other side of Vancouver Island to Asia. If proponent Compliance Energy has its way, it will build the underground Raven Coal Mine near Fanny Bay and truck 100 loads of coal every day across the Island to Port Alberni – jeopardizing communities and ecologies along the trucking route, in Port Alberni, and in the Somass River estuary (a key salmon river) and other waterways en route to Asia.