Compliance applying for coal mine Environmental Assessment certificate

Compliance Coal Corporation has begun the provincial application for an Environmental Assessment certificate.

A RAVEN COAL mine protestor attended the Protectors of Mother Earth Water Parade on Saturday down Fifth Street in Courtenay to Simms Millennium Park.

Compliance Coal Corporation has begun the provincial application for an Environmental Assessment certificate and the federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposed Raven Underground Coal Mining Project overlooking Baynes Sound.

The filing process will be complete when the company delivers its 12,000-plus-page document.

Compliance Coal president/CEO John Tapics says the certificate is a key approval required for the project. He expects the mine will create about 350 full-time jobs and spinoff jobs in an “area that has had limited new private industry initiatives in the past few years,” he said by e-mail.

The Raven coal deposit covers about 3,100 hectares adjacent to Buckley Bay. The mine is expected to operate about 16 years.

Opposition to the project is widespread.

Opponents say it puts hundreds of jobs in the shellfish industry at risk, and threatens drinking water, air quality and road safety. It also poses negative social/economic impacts, says CoalWatch Comox Valley president John Snyder.

“We’re pleased that after nine months we’re finally moving ahead on this thing,” said Snyder, noting the AIR (Application Information Requirements) was finalized in June.

He also notes public concern about substance, not the size of the 12,000-page document.

“Without having seen it yet, from my perspective I don’t have any high expectations of seeing anything substantive in addressing our concerns about mine studies in Baynes Sound or watershed issues. We believe the bar was set pretty low in the AIR.”

The application/EIS includes detailed descriptions of the project, summaries of studies to assess baseline conditions, and an analysis of potential effects including activities proposed to mitigate the effects.

The application addresses key information on wildlife, freshwater and marine ecosystems, hydrology, hydrogeology, First Nations consultation and economic opportunities. It is the result of several years of field work and consultation, the company said.

The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) project lead, in consultation with a working group that includes technical experts and First Nations, determined that the requirements in the AIR would provide sufficient information to adequately assess potential effects on groundwater and on the marine environment at Baynes Sound.

The three Comox Valley councils and the Comox Valley Regional District board have passed motions opposing further processing of the application until government conducts a comprehensive mapping of aquifers that could be affected by the mine.

Officials are also requesting the Province to conduct independent baseline studies of Baynes sound adjacent to the mine, and the federal government to refer the environment assessment to an independent review panel with public hearings.

The EAO is aware of the above resolutions, says the provincial Environment Ministry. The office is also aware that some members of the public have concerns about potential impacts of the project on their communities.

“We are committed to ensuring that public views on the project are considered as part of the environmental assessment process,” a statement says.

Once filed, the application will be subject to a 30-day screening, after which it will be determined if it will proceed to review, which must be completed within 180 days.

If the application is accepted it will be posted at www.eao.gov.bc.ca.

After the review period, it will be considered by ministers for an EA certificate. The federal government will co-ordinate the EIS review over a six-month period, in conjunction with the Province.

Snyder notes the front end of the 180-day review will include a 50-day public comment period with open houses.

CoalWatch has identified technical experts who will wade through the document and summarize deficiencies in the application, which CoalWatch will post for viewing as part of the 50-day period.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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