Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Coal mine needs independent enviro review, say critics

An environmental group is raising concerns about the review process for a proposed coal mine on eastern Vancouver Island, despite assurances from the province.

CoalWatch, a Comox Valley environmental advocacy organization, believes the current environmental review of the Raven Underground Coal Project doesn't go far enough, fearing the mine poses a threat to nearby water aquifers, air quality, the local shellfish industry, road and waterway safety, and the relative peace and quiet of the region.

"I'm not against resource development," says John Snyder, CoalWatch president. "We just have to look at what we're doing and what the risks are. What we have now is, by definition, not the most rigorous assessment."

To Snyder and others, that "most rigorous assessment" would be an independent review panel of the project with public hearings.

Last year, a federal review panel warned of "significant adverse environmental effects" from the Prosperity Gold-Copper mine project in Chilcotin. The proposal of the mine project was subsequently rejected by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Office.

But an emailed response from B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office makes an expansion of the review process for the Raven mine seem unlikely.

"The current review led by the EAO is rigorous, and can adequately assess the potential environmental, social, economic, health and heritage effects of the proposed project," the agency stated. In other words, despite what the agency concedes to be "a lot of opposition to the proposed project," a review panel has not yet been deemed necessary.

According to Compliance Coal Corporation, the managing entity behind the mine, such concerns are unwarranted for the time being. "We are aware of those concerns and we've accommodated them in the scope of our environmental assessment application," says Compliance CEO John Tapics, adding the project will create "approximately 350 full-time jobs."

At three public meetings held last week in Courtenay, Port Alberni, and Union Bay, citizens turned out en masse to ask questions and air grievances over the proposed mine. But for many of those in attendance, the vagaries of the regulatory process are dwarfed by much broader concerns over the environmental and social viability of the project altogether.

The meetings coincided with a 40-day public comment period by the EAO. The agency is currently accepting responses to its "draft Application Information Requirements" document -- a hefty checklist of information and analysis required of Compliance Coal before the project can receive a broader review.

The current public comment period comes to an end on June 27. The comments will then be assembled by the EAO and submitted to Compliance Coal for response.

Ben Christopher is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus