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B.C. accused of bias on Raven coal mine plan near Courtenay

Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist, Sep 2 2015

A Vancouver company behind the proposed Raven coal mine south of Courtenay has accused B.C.’s environmental assessment office of bias.

In a letter posted on the government website, Stephen Ellis, president of Compliance Energy Corp., states that he sees little merit in sitting down with officials to discuss further environmental assessment options for the mine near Buckley Bay.

He says the office is “not treating the proposed Raven Underground Coal Project in a fair and transparent manner and that the project would never be able to achieve an [environmental assessment] certificate given the built-in biases in the review process.”

Ellis, who could not be reached for an interview, further blames the “protracted” and “exceedingly costly” process for the loss of two major international investors, Itochu Corp. of Japan and LG International Corp. of South Korea.

He states that the company is considering its options.

B.C.’s Environment ministry defended the environmental assessment office in a statement released Tuesday, saying it stands by the decision to make the company provide additional information about the project.

“We came to that determination following a careful review, conducted with the assistance of experts from the provincial government, other levels of government and aboriginal groups.”

The ministry added that the assessment office provided the company with a detailed list of materials that are still needed.

“British Columbia’s environmental assessments involve a rigorous, thorough review. It is not possible for us to deliver such a review if we do not have all of the information that we require.”

The ministry notes that it has been more than three years since it first issued the application requirements, “and the company has not yet submitted a complete application.”

The office will now consider its next move, including whether to suspend or terminate the environmental assessment, the ministry said.

John Snyder, president of the CoalWatch Comox Valley Society, said it’s time that government pulled the plug on the project.

He said the company has been afforded due process and now seems to be blaming everyone else for its failure to provide the necessary information.

“From my perspective, I just think it’s sour grapes and they have nobody to blame but themselves,” he said.

“So we’ll see how it all plays out.”

Compliance Energy never made it past the initial screening process in May 2013 because regulators wanted more information.

The company then re-applied in February, but withdrew just days before the assessment office was due to complete its 30-day screening.

Ellis stated at the time that the company had received “some misinformation that is circulating in some communities regarding the Raven Project.”

Compliance Energy stated on its website that the Raven mine, if approved, will extract up to 1.1 million tonnes of coal per year during peak production. Trucks, or possibly trains, will carry the product to Port Alberni for shipping to steel-making markets in Japan and South Korea.

The company said in 2012 that the project would contribute $1.1 billion to local economies and create about 350 full-time jobs in the Comox Valley and Port Alberni over the 16-year life of the mine.

The project, however, faces stiff opposition from environmental groups and local shellfish growers, who fear possible contamination from the mine.