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Raven coal mine environmental assessment public comment period begins

The Wilderness Committee and concerned local citizens are gearing up to voice their opposition as the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine entered the environmental assessment public comment period last Wednesday.

"Located just south of Courtenay in Fanny Bay, the Raven Coal Mine would have a devastating impact on many of the things people love about the West Coast," said Tria Donaldson, Pacific Coast Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. "The project has been meet with overwhelming public opposition, and this process gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that."

Local residents are concerned about the significant environmental impacts associated with the proposal. Potential heavy metal contamination threatens salmon streams, drinking water and the Fanny Bay shellfish industry.

The project would also mean an increase in road traffic, as each year over 50,000 giant B-train trucks would traverse the dangerous roads to Port Alberni.

"This proposal is of great concern here in B.C. for those living in communities threatened by this coal mine. There are also serious considerations that must be made related to the impact on the international community," said Ben West, Healthy Communities Campaigner. "Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, and our dependence on burning it is having devastating global impacts.

"The Raven Coal project would lead to millions of tonnes of pollution that causes climate change and that should be avoided — the coal should be left in the ground," said West.

Opposition to the proposed mine has lead to a unified call from numerous local governments, trade unions, and community and environmental groups for the federal and provincial environmental assessment agencies to undertake a joint panel review with public hearings, which is the most thorough method of assessment.

Despite numerous requests, and the high level of public concern, the B.C. government has remained silent and ignored countless requests.

"The risks associated with the project are immense, and the level of public concern has been demonstrated. Environment Minister Lake has stated that the process has consulted with stakeholders, even citing the Wilderness Committee in Question Period, but our requests for a more rigourous process has fallen on deaf ears," said Donaldson.

"In fact, several of the impacted communities that requested public meetings as part of the comment period have been left out of the process completely, including Denman Island, Qualicum Beach, and Tofino. "

Public meetings, as part of the environmental assessment, are slated to take place May 30 in Courtenay, June 2 in Port Alberni, and June 3 in Union Bay.

— Wilderness Committee

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