Two more companies have applied for 18 coal licences in the Comox Valley area, covering up to over 22,000 hectares.
CoalWatch Comox Valley discovered last week the new coal licence applications, and CoalWatch president John Snyder says he was surprised when he found them listed deep in the bowels of a government website.
“We were stunned to see this amount of new coal license applications covering such a large area of the Comox Valley,” says Snyder, noting CoalWatch had been focusing on Compliance Coal Corporation’s proposed Raven Underground Coal Project in the Fanny Bay area — which is in the pre-application stage of an environmental assessment.
“As far as I can tell these two separate corporations or entities are kind of new players, if you will, in the Comox Valley.”
Feisa Resources Canada Ltd. filed 10 coal licence applications in the area from Fanny Bay to Royston. The total area covered by its applications is 13,312 hectares.
Golden River Resource Inc. filed eight coal licence applications — four in the Anderson Lake area, north of Comox Lake, and four in the Oyster River area. The total area covered by its applications is 9,075 hectares.
Snyder says the Anderson Lake area applications worry him especially.
“The four that are really problematic are the ones by Golden River Resources; those are right in the Tsolum/Puntledge River area which is a really sensitive watershed,” says Snyder, noting the years of work that went into restoring the Tsolum River from pollution due to an old copper mine site on Mount Washington.
Meanwhile, Snyder says he believes it’s possible some of Feisa Resources coal licence applications may not move forward.
“It appears that most of the ones that are by Feisa Resources Canada overlap, or are smack dab, right on top of Compliance,” says Snyder, noting Compliance already owns 60 per cent of the subsurface mineral rights for a large area of the Comox Valley, in a joint venture with I-Comox Coal and LG International Investments Canada Ltd.
Compliance president and chief operating officer Stephen Ellis says it’s possible some of the area covered in the new applications does overlap.
“We’ve been contacted by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas because they believe there may be some conflict in the (new) application and the licences that we hold,” says Ellis, noting Compliance and the Ministry are investigating.
“We own the subsurface rights to the coal and they can’t be taken away from us — they can be bought from us —but they can’t be taken away.”
He adds the area covered in some of the new applications could simply be nearby the rights Compliance already owns.
“These things happen, you know. If I was an exploration man and you go, ‘Hey there’s coal there and somebody’s already got these rights, well, let’s go and buy some next door.’ “
Snyder says he’s shocked there’s been no public notice about the new coal licence applications.
“These applications are the first stage in any future coal mine exploration or development, and there needs to be more transparency and public notice when these are filed,” he says.
According to a Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas spokesperson, the Province conducts consultations with First Nations, plus referrals to other ministries, local governments and other agencies. A couple of the other steps include obtaining a Mines Act permit and an Environmental Assessment Certificate.
In June, the Comox Valley Regional District was asked for comment on licence applications in the Anderson Lake and Oyster River area. The committee of the whole approved letters to the chief inspector of mines requesting no licence be issued due to concern that coal mine exploration, and further exploration, impacts existing industries.
CoalWatch presented its concerns to the CVRD at that time, and Snyder says he will do so again if these other applications make it to that stage of the process.