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Chief plans to seek injunction to stop coal mine

The chief of West Moberly First Nations says he is prepared to file for a court injunction to stop the further destruction of caribou habitat near Tumbler Ridge.

The piece of habitat in question is known as the Goodrich property, and it's staked for coal mining exploration by First Coal Corporation.

In December, provincial mine inspector Victor Koyanagi notified First Coal that it had contravened the terms of its exploratory permits on the Goodrich property by building roads and clearing approximately 17 hectares of land.

First Coal has since complied with all the requirements of that notification, which included a plan and cost estimate for reclamation of the affected land, said its president Doug Smith

Chief Roland Willson said the ministry of energy, mines and petroleum resources should never have issued permits for the Goodrich property in the first place because it is on critical mountain caribou habitat.

Willson said, and a government biologist confirmed, that ministry officials were aware of this fact. Because mountain caribou are listed as threatened under the Species At Risk Act, the ministry of the environment is responsible for developing a habitat protection plan.

Last week, The Tyee reported on the ministry's plan to protect caribou habitat in the southern region of the province. Ten environmental groups that had been involved in the process released an letter expressing concern that protected areas were off-limits to logging, but not mining or energy development.

Currently, First Coal is awaiting approvals for an amendment to its permit that would allow the removal of 100,000 tonnes of material from the Goodrich property.

"What we are required to do is put in all the necessary reports in the permitting process. The [ministry of energy, mines and petroleum resources] is required to complete its consultation with First Nations. That's where it is right now," said Smith.

Because the Goodrich property is on caribou habitat his company was required to present a caribou monitoring and mitigation plan, "which we have done," said Smith.

Willson said while he isn't opposed to all coal mining -- there are currently five operating in West Moberly territory -- his council will do everything it can to prevent this one from proceeding.

"Our issue is that this coal mine is in a bad spot," he said. "They [ministry of energy, mines and petroleum resources] should have never issued a permit for that area. If they proceed to move forward we're going to file an injunction."

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