NDP Environment Critic Rob Fleming considers the environmental assessment underway for the proposed Raven coal mine in Baynes Sound as weak and inadequate considering the scope of the project and risks to the community.
Compliance Coal last week submitted its application, which government agencies are reviewing before it goes public. There is opportunity for public comment before the application goes before federal and provincial governments for final approval.
“There’s an urgency to this,” Fleming said Tuesday at Comox Valley NDP candidate Kassandra Dycke’s campaign office in Courtenay. “The (provincial) election begins a week from now. I know from Kassandra that this is a top-of-mind issue for people regardless of whether they live in the Valley. “
The mine is expected to operate about 16 years, and to create about 350 full-time jobs and spin-off jobs.
The three 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. Officials are also requesting the Province conduct independent baseline studies of Baynes Sound adjacent to the mine. At the federal level, they want government to refer the assessment to an independent review panel with public hearings.
“What I’m hearing from this community is that people are very concerned that there’s one industry being traded off for another,” Dycke said. “We have right now over 600 long-term, sustainable jobs in our shellfish industry — a pride industry in this community. With the development of a possible mine, that industry is put at risk.”
Fleming feels Valley residents are being “short-changed” by a process he considers “insufficient” to determine environmental risks.
“The information gaps are staggering at this point,” he said, noting hydrology reports suggest the scope of the review thus far is inadequate. “Those are things that have to be done before a mine can be fully considered, let alone approved.”
Fleming is neither for or against coal mining in principle, but he is against approving any mine application without a proper and thorough review.
“What I can’t understand is why the B.C. Liberal government agreed to a joint review panel in the Cariboo, which is far away from population centres. Definitely had environmental challenges, but they agreed to the highest form of environmental review in that region of the province, and they denied residents in this region the very same thing.”