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Compliance pulls Raven Coal project application citing 'misinformation'

Drew A. Penner, Comox Valley Echo, March 6, 2015

Opponents claim victory, at least for now

Compliance Coal Corp. has voluntarily pulled the additional documentation it submitted to the BC Environmental Assessment Office for the Raven Underground Coal Mine in January, but is vowing to make good on the $20 million invested in the project so far.

President and COO Stephen Ellis blamed "misinformation" swirling in Vancouver Island communities as the reason why the company decided to pull the plug on this attempt before the submission period closing.

"Our 30 days was up - we were short of time," he said. "We couldn't do anything else and couldn't apply for an extension. The way to go about it is probably to do a bit of a step back."

The province sent the company back to the drawing board in 2013 after receiving an incomplete application it said had hundreds of shortcomings.
The Raven project is a joint venture, between Compliance and LG International Investments (Canada) Ltd., which seeks to mine a coarse and fine rejects rock dump for 1 million tones of saleable coal. ITOCHU Corp. of Japan had been a minority player in the proposed mine but announced it was dropping out in July 2014.

Ellis said he's far from done with the plan to mine for metallurgic coal in the Buckley Bay area, adding Compliance's board was concerned there's so much "misinformation" out in the public sphere it would prevent a fair evaluation from the working group set up to look at the project.

"We still remain confident that the Raven Coal project will be developed in an environmentally friendly manner," he said. "We've got a lot of money invested in this and we don't want to see it just racked up because of a process."
Critics believe Compliance may not have wanted or been able to pay the $112,500 assessment fee due by the end of the 30-day period.

The EAO says it stressed the importance of addressing all environmental requirements to the company prior to its second go at an environmental assessment this year.

"During the evaluation of the resubmitted application in January/February 2015, the company was provided with comments from the working group," said Ministry of Environment spokesperson Dave Crebo, in a statement. "The company made the decision to withdraw the application before a decision on its completeness was issued, so we consider the evaluation to remain a draft document."

Already opponents of the project have begun claiming victory, if only a partial one.

"They had to step aside while being heavily criticized in the press and in public forums -and in their own consultation meetings," said Harjap Grewal, regional organizer for the Pacific region with the Council of Canadians. "In a sense it's a really big victory for small communities."

BC activists haven't had as much luck halting other projects in the province, like pipeline developments or the Site C dam.

"Here in this case communities had a very small voice and in some ways scared off the company," he said. "I think that's really big."

Grewal said the protests against the Raven mine really stuck with him, noting most battles take a long time to heat up, whereas citizens on Vancouver Island were up in arms almost instantly.

"It was steep and strong opposition," he said. "You don't see that very often."

Ellis says people don't realize how safe a coal operation would be and points to ocean acidification as a bigger concern for Baynes Sound aquaculture. Plus, negative air pressure in a planned storage facility in Port Alberni would prevent coal dust from contaminating the community, he charged.

Meanwhile, those who are against Raven say they'll be ready to fight once more if and when the project is back on the table.

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