Raven coalmine at Fanny Bay - Update Nov 2011

Next stage critical for coal review
Second public input period for proposed Raven Underground Coal Project will happen 'very soon'

Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times
Published: Wednesday, November 02, 2011
The wide-ranging environmental assessment process regarding the proposed Raven Underground Coal Project is about to enter another critical phase where public comment is invited.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency spokesperson Maxine Leger-Haskell explained the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office will open a second two-week public comment period "very soon," although dates have not been released.

The first public comment period, held over May and June of this year, elicited comments and concerns from hundreds of area residents.

Over the next public comment period, residents will be able to address whether or not their concerns are being addressed.

The project has come back into the spotlight as a high-profile election issue.

At last week's all candidates' mayoral debate, the four contenders were asked if they support Port Alberni becoming a coal port and transfer location, if the project becomes a reality.

Stacey Gaiga and Jen FisherBradley firmly stated their opposition. John Douglas said while he did not support the idea, that all sides must have their say, and current mayor Ken McRae said he would only consider the option if the coal could be moved by rail.

But Kelly Drybrough, president of the Port Alberni and District Labour Council, said it is unrealistic to suggest the entire rail system will be updated to move coal through the city.

"As much as we would love to see the rail system brought back for tourism and industry, the government is not willing to pay for it," Drybrough said.

He added the council opposes the project entirely until the environmental impacts are known.

"At the same time, we are totally opposed to coal coming in by truck," he said, adding the infrastructure in the city cannot sustain the addition of 60-tonne B-train trucks loaded with coal.

The labour council will be participating in the upcoming public comment period.

However, the road to approval for the project is a long one.

"It's a rigorous process," Leger-Haskell said. "We are still at quite an early stage."

Following this second public comment period, federal and provincial officials will finalize a draft that details all the studies the proponent must perform to satisfy all legitimate environment, socio-economic and health concerns, Leger-Haskell said.

Specific instructions will be given to the proponent.

This draft will be available to the public. It will likely take months before all the required studies are done and the information is sent back to the government for consideration.

Then, a final public comment period will take place before an Environmental Assessment Report on the project is drafted.

The B.C. Environmental Assessment Agency and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will have final say on if the project will go ahead.

John Tapics, president and CEO of Compliance Coal Corp., the company behind the Raven Underground Coal Project, said he welcomes the chance to receive further input from the public on the project.

"We are committed to a project that is socially and environmentally responsible," he said, adding there is a very complex review process in place before the project can be approved, and the company has put "hundreds of hours" into going over the comments from the first public input session.

Tapics hopes to receive final approval for the project in late 2012 or early 2013.

The next step would be the commencement of construction, including work at the Port Authority docks in Port Alberni.

While timelines for the project have not been set in stone, Tapics said it is hoped the company will reach the construction phase at some point in 2013.

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The plan, according to the company's website, is to locate the mine on mainly private land approximately five kilometres west of the Buckley Bay ferry terminal.

The aim is to remove metallurgical or "steel-making" coal for export to markets in Japan and South Korea.

Port Alberni has been identified by the company as the preferred port for transport to overseas markets.

Early work into the proposed project's feasibility contemplates the use of trucks, although transporting by rail is still an option if the community prefers it and it is cost competitive to trucking, the website states.

Studies indicate 88% of the coal produced from the Raven Project will be suitable for steel-making.

JCaranci [at] avtimes [dot] net

© Alberni Valley Times 2011


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