Proposed coal mine over Baynes Sound ‘isn’t an easy ask,’ admits Comox Valley MLA

A recent 30-day public comment period indicates widespread opposition to the proposed Raven underground coal mine in Baynes Sound.

A recent 30-day public comment period indicates widespread opposition to the proposed Raven underground coal mine in Baynes Sound.

According to CoalWatch Comox Valley, more than 95 per cent of 2,300-plus respondents “expressed deep concern or outright opposition to the proposal.”

CoalWatch is calling on elected officials, both federal and provincial, to advocate for an independent expert review panel with full public hearings.

The Canada Environmental Assessment Agency, however, has said the project does not warrant referral to a panel review.

Though only at the pre-assessment phase, Comox Valley MLA and Agriculture Minister Don McRae is not surprised at the level of discussion the proposal has generated, considering the higher-than-average voting rate and level of environmental consciousness among his constituents.

“I would expect nothing less from the Comox Valley,” McRae said.

Project proponent Compliance Coal Corporation expects the mine would yield hundreds of jobs, some paying six-figure salaries.

While most submissions have been negative, McRae said some people are keen to see investment in jobs in B.C.

“But the reality is it needs to be balanced, and that’s what the environmental process is doing,” said McRae, noting the Prosperity Mine proposal in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region was a 17-year process.

“And even then it didn’t go forward. It’s not a process that’s designed to be fast, it’s designed to be comprehensive and deal with the issues as they arise. I’m thankful that people are raising the issues.”

In December, a group of protesters handed McRae a stocking full of coal at his Courtenay office. He has since relayed theirs and other concerns to Environment Minister Terry Lake, who was not available for comment this week.

“His (Lake) sense was that an independent panel review would be at a test lower than the environmental assessment review would be. So the bar for the environmental assessment is designed to be higher than that,” McRae explained.

Official Opposition Environment Critic Rob Fleming has criticized McRae and Lake for not ensuring the mine would receive the “highest scrutiny possible.” In a statement, the Victoria–Swan Lake MLA questions McRae’s assurance about protecting the aquaculture industry “with the highest environmental standards possible.”

McRae, who suggests Fleming is “stirring a political pot,” said B.C. has some of the highest environmental standards in North America. He also suggests Fleming’s complaint about the need for a joint panel review needs to be raised with his federal colleagues in Ottawa.

“Don’t get mad at us for the feds not deciding that it’s warranted,” McRae said. “We’re proud of the environmental assessment process in British Columbia. It is strict, and you don’t see a lot of mines opening up in this province for that very reason. It’s not meant to be an easy test.”

To bring a mine to the east coast of the Island next to the ocean and the richest shellfish beds in B.C. “isn’t an easy ask by the company,” McRae added.

“I’m sure the company didn’t expect the response to be in huge support, nor to be an easy process.”

• • •

The Raven coal project is in the early stage of a “co-operative federal-provincial environmental assessment process,” the B.C. Environment Ministry says in a statement.

“The Environmental Assessment Office is committed to conducting a rigorous assessment, informed by objective scientific analysis, to evaluate the potential environmental, social, economic, health and heritage effects of the proposed project.”

The intention of the public comment period on the draft Application Information Requirements/Environmental Impact Statement Guidelines was to solicit comment on studies to be conducted and information to be provided by the proponent in its application for a provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate.

The EAO considers comments within the scope of the assessment, whether they are raised once or many times. The large number of comments is not unprecedented, the ministry added, referring to the Jumbo Glacier Resort Project near Invermere.

The EAO requested comments pertaining to the draft AIR/EIS Guidelines document, rather than ‘votes’ for or against the project. It notes, however, the majority of comments were not in favour of the proposal.

“The EAO is responsible for ensuring a fair and transparent process that assesses the potential impacts of the proposed project. Only after the assessment is complete will the EAO submit a report to the Minister of Environment and Minister of Energy and Mines for a decision of whether to issue a provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate.”

For more information about the public comment period, see the Frequently Asked Questions document at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

James Hutchison was sentenced in court for a robbery from April 2019. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Accused sentenced for early morning robbery in Courtenay

Hutchison gets credit for 218 days in custody but given 120 more days in jail

Tidal Café owners Blythe and Kurt Reimer (left) and Toscano’s head chef and general manager Tristan Taylor have been sharing deck space to help both businesses during the expanded COVID public health order restrictions that ban indoor dining. Photo by Terry Farrell
Neighbouring Comox restaurants share patios for mutual benefit during COVID restrictions

Two restaurants in Comox are working together to help ease the burden… Continue reading

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
A little girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

John Ludlow is making leis for sale for $20 each, with all proceeds to be donated to the Comox Valley Transition Society. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Celebrating kindness, joy and helping others on Lei Day

Ludlow is making leis for sale with proceeds to be donated to the Comox Valley Transition Society

Cumberland is finalizing its tax rate bylaw for the year, which will see a 4.93 per cent increase. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland moving ahead on 4.93 tax hike

Residential rates’ hike was less than projected during planning stages

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

There are lots of resources for seniors looking for information about COVID-19. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
COVID questions? Here are some phone-based resources available for seniors

Here is a list of numbers to keep on hand for Vancouver Islanders who aren’t fond of computers

Chum Salmon fry being examined with multiple motile and attached sea lice on Vargas Island. (Cedar Coast Field Station photo)
Study: Tofino fish farm sea lice infestations add fuel to push to remove open pens

Ahousaht First Nation asking for higher standards than what DFO requires

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Most Read