Process not transparent, claims coal mine watchdog group

CoalWatch Comox Valley has slammed the public comment period on the proposed Raven underground coal mine overlooking Baynes Sound.

CoalWatch Comox Valley has slammed the recently announced public comment period on the proposed Raven underground coal mine in Baynes Sound, referring to Compliance Coal Corporation’s responses in the latest version of the tracking table as vague and evasive, not transparent.

“The BC Environmental Assessment Office should be encouraging inclusiveness and public participation in this environmental assessment process,” CoalWatch president John Snyder said. “But here we have over 1,100 pages of documents that have been foisted onto the public that do not result in much useful — let alone new — information on this project. Due to the sheer volume and complexity, and the fact that government is only allowing the public two weeks to respond, this is actually a huge disincentive to participate.”

CoalWatch vice-president Campbell Connor said the BCEAO and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency have “insulted the public and demonstrated denial of their promise of transparency and public participation.

“The responses are referenced to sections in the draft AIR so one has to bounce around thousands of pages in this literary labyrinth in an attempt to clarify anything. The proponent has had over four months to respond to the nearly 3,000 public comments — a task they achieved using a full-time staff. Yet the public, with volunteers who have other lives and jobs, is given only two weeks for the mammoth task of responding.”

CoalWatch said local governments in the Comox Valley and Port Alberni, along with thousands of British Columbians, have called for a more rigorous environmental assessment review, an independent review panel with public hearings. So far, these requests have been rejected at senior levels of government.

“Many of the public comments submitted were well-researched by highly-respected scientists and other professionals,” said Maggie Paquet, CoalWatch director and biologist. “Comments from the public were also well thought-out and presented. We deserve more respect for our work than this incredibly feeble showing from both levels of government and the proponent.”

The public comment period for this stage of the environmental assessment is open from Nov. 15 to 29. For details on how to make a submission, visit www.coalwatch.ca.

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