Mines keep polluting long after they’re closed

Dear editor,
Joe Paquet claims that B.C. has some of the most stringent environmental laws in the world.

Dear editor,In response to Joe Paquet’s recent letter extolling the virtues of mining and jobs jobs jobs for the Comox Valley, Mr. Paquet claims that B.C. has some of the most stringent environmental laws in the world.The fact is that mines inspectors generally only inspect for worker health and safety and not for water quality or environmental damage.John Doyle, B.C.’s Auditor General, issued a scathing report on the lack of follow up on projects by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. There are certainly not sufficient field staff to ensure that these strict environmental regulations are adhered to.Mr. Paquet recalls the ‘foolish comments’ made over the Quinsam Coal Mine 30 years ago when there was overwhelming public opposition to the project.He doesn’t mention that Dr. William Cullen of UBC conducted a study of the water of Long Lake and found that it contained up to 630 parts per million of arsenic. Dr. Cullen called Quinsam Coal’s denial of responsibility “a gross distortion of fact.”In spite of this, the mine was granted a permit to extend their operations in January 2012.There are 13 contaminated sites in British Columbia targeted for cleanup due to confirmed risks to human health and the environment. Eleven of these 13 contaminated sites are abandoned mines.The current price tag for B.C. taxpayers to clean up this toxic mess is $237 million. What was it he was saying about toughest environmental regulations in the world?If there are no police giving out speeding tickets, speeders will speed, regardless of the rules.The management and directors of Compliance do not have experience in coal mining, unless you count the few months John Tapics claimed he worked in a coal mine when he was a wet-behind-the-ears kid fresh out of university in 1975. The B.C. government issued a report in 2008: there were 394,000 jobs on Vancouver Island, 80 per cent of which were service jobs, 10 per cent construction and one per cent fishing and mining. Coastal B.C. is the only place in Canada with a mean average temperature of 0 degrees celsius. Wealthy people want to live in this paradise of oceans, rain forests, lush valleys and mountains.This means spinoff jobs will keep growing in the  service and construction sectors, unless we let coal mines turn the clock back 50 years. The Comox Valley has a wonderfully diverse economy and we don’t need two coal mines to prop it up.As to Mr. Paquet’s reference to ‘pensioned-off activists’, would he mind coming over and cutting my lawn for me and weeding my garden? I am too busy working full time, and fighting to protect the future of this Valley to do it myself.Lynne Wheeler,Fanny Bay