The regional district board heard several concerns Tuesday about another coal licence application from Compliance Coal Corporation. The company — which is the proponent of the proposed Raven underground coal mine in Baynes Sound and which holds a 60 per cent interest in the Bear Coal Deposit south of Comox Lake — has also expressed interest in exploring coal resources near Anderson Lake above Forbidden Plateau north of Comox Lake.
Compliance says it has no intention of exploring either the Bear Coal or Anderson Lake deposits, even if government approves the Raven project. The Anderson Lake application was made in 2007, since which the Province has held it in abeyance. Nevertheless, if the deposit is developed, CoalWatch Comox Valley questions what type of environmental review process it would encounter.
Mindful of changes in federal and provincial review processes, and proposed changes in the Fisheries Act, CoalWatch president John Snyder feels the review process on the Raven proposal will be a thing of the past.
“With the Anderson Lake coal licence in the application phase, we have a special opportunity that was unavailable to us on the Raven and Bear Coal licences,” Snyder said. “We have the opportunity to say ‘NO NOW’ before anything moves forward.”
At the last committee of the whole session, directors approved a letter to the chief inspector of mines to inform terms and conditions of the licence submitted by Compliance.
“Why would the CVRD board not simply say no to this application given the fact that the Province and federal government ministries have not heeded the requests from the CVRD for an independent and comprehensive assessment process,” David Stapley said.
He was referring to a board resolution to oppose further processing of the Raven application until senior levels of government conducted comprehensive aquifer mapping, undertaken baseline studies of affected flora and fauna, and appointed an independent scientific panel to review the application.
Wayne White of the Tsolum River Restoration Society also asked the board to oppose the application.
“My feeling is the Comox Valley can grow without coal,” said Area A director Bruce Jolliffe, noting the granting of coal licences is a discretionary practice, as per the gold commissioner.
He called for an amended letter requesting no licence be issued due to concern that coal mine exploration, and further exploration, impacts existing industries. His motion passed.
CoalWatch reminded the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency of a legal obligation to assess “cumulative environmental effects that are likely to result from the project in combination with other projects or activities that have or will be carried out.” The board agreed to include the wording in the policy comments in the letter.