Japan quake raises stakes for Baynes Sound coal mine proposal

Dear editor,
As the next public comment period approaches for the proposed Raven underground coal mine, both the pro and anti groups are gathering their diverse arguments.

Dear editor,As the next public comment period approaches for the proposed Raven underground coal mine, both the pro and anti groups are gathering their diverse arguments.However, one scientific fact that we can all agree on has been driven home by the recent events in Japan. The fact is that the Raven mine is located in the second-highest relative hazard zone for an earthquake (and about 60 km from the highest hazard zone) as mapped by Natural Resources Canada.It is a matter of “when” not “if.” We have seen how safety and environmental precautions, even in the most prepared country, can be no match for the seismic forces of nature. The proposed Raven design includes surface water runoff channeling and holding pond facilities for the mine site, including two rock piles totaling 17 million tonnes of acidic reject coal. What is at stake when these facilities fail?The acidic runoff will run downhill into Baynes Bay, with a high probability of destroying a $22-million shellfish industry employing 500 people.The likelihood of an earthquake raises other concerns.One is the risk of the two massive waste rock piles collapsing. Second is the increased risk of deteriorating residential and agricultural ground water sources as the ground shaking further disturbs underground flows that will be already altered by the mine.Third is the danger to miners who may tragically be in the mine when a quake hits. At risk are lives, the right to clean water, and the sustainable shellfish, agricultural and tourism economies. And there are the seismic and tsunami risks at the project’s proposed coal shipping facilities in Port Alberni. The world’s dependence on coal will have to taper off rather than immediately disappear as we move into a greener energy future. Meanwhile, the most judicious approach is to only develop coal deposits that pose the least amount of risk to the environment and to sustainable industries and that have the highest quality of ore. The Raven project is not one of those deposits. In addition to its seismic risks, the Raven project, according to qualified geologists, will produce low-quality coal that will have to be mixed with higher-quality coal for its intended metallurgical use.We are perhaps now shaking our heads over the wisdom of locating nuclear plants in an earthquake zone. Will we, in the near future, be shaking our heads over the permitting of the Raven mine after the earth trembles and we count our losses?Peggy Zimmerman,Courtenay

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