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Coal mine application withdrawn

Eric Plummer, Alberni Valley Times, March 4, 2015

A coal mine that would have sent product to Port Alberni for shipment oversees has withdrawn its application after provincial regulators identified concerns with the proposed project. After a month of review, British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office informed Compliance Energy Corporation on Monday that its latest submission for the Raven Underground Coal Project was insufficient to proceed through the regulatory process. [Correction: The applicant, Compliance Coal Corp., advised the BC EAO that it was withdrawing its application. The EAO had not yet written to the applicant.]

Regulators plan to send a list of concerns to Compliance Energy, which endeavors to mine 1 million tonnes of metalurgical coal from the Comox Valley near Fanny Bay.

This product would have been trucked to Port Alberni for shipment to steelmaking markets in Japan and South Korea.

"Following a careful review, we advised Compliance Coal of issues that we identified with their application for the Raven Underground Coal Project and they have decided to withdraw it," stated B.C.'s Ministry of Environment in an email to the Times. "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."

A letter sent to the ministry on Monday from Stephen Ellis, president and CEO of Compliance Energy, spoke of inaccurate information about the project that has been spreading on Vancouver Island.

"We received some misinformation that is circulating in some communities regarding the Raven project and believe it is appropriate that we withdraw the project from the screening process at this time," wrote Ellis. "We remain confident that the Raven Coal Project will be developed in an environmentally favourable manner and will provide considerable economic and social benefits to the Comox area."

The project has faced public opposition on both sides of the Alberni Summit, including a critical report given to Port Alberni's elected representatives last month from the Raven Underground Coal Environmental Application Review Committee. The group was appointed by the city to advise municipal officials in their role on a working group involved in the Raven coal mine application.

The project would send 70 truckloads of coal through Cathedral Grove a day to a shipping facility in Port Alberni, an operation that would bring 70 jobs to the Valley, said Ellis. But the city's application review committee said that Compliance's latest application makes no mention of 50 trucking jobs included in the 70 Alberni Valley positions.

The committee also identified harmful effects the coal project would have on tourism in the area. The Port Alberni shipping facility would use a covered conveyor belt, but marine biologist Stefan Ochman was unconvinced the Inlet would be protected from coal dust.

"There are too many unconfirmed and/or unresearched statements and conditions throughout the re-application to give much confidence that the health of the marine environment, including the Somass estuary, Alberni Harbour, and Alberni Inlet/Trevor Channel has been adequately considered," he said in his notes for the committee.

"This entire marine system is extremely important to the cultural, economic, health, and social environment of the Alberni region," he said.

Compliance's latest setback follows an application rejection from the EAO in May 2013, when a lack of consultations with First Nations was identified.

Along with its joint venture partners, the company has invested more than $20 million into the project.

"We remain confident that all the regulatory requirements will be met," stated Ellis in his letter to the ministry. "Our company is committed to only developments which will have a net positive impact. Employee safety and good environmental stewardship are keys to our corporate objective."

EPlummer@avtimes.net 250-723-8171

© Copyright 2015 Alberni Valley Times

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