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Junior coal miner slams BC Environmental Assessment Office

Nelson Bennett, Business In Vancouver, Sept 1 2015

A junior coal mining company that wants to build an underground coal mine on Vancouver Island is accusing the BC Environmental Assessment Office of being biased against the project and driving away investors.

Compliance Energy Corp. (TSX-V:CEC) has missed another deadline in an environmental review process that the company says has been “protracted over an excessive period of time and been exceedingly costly.”

The company’s original application for the Raven coal project was made in 2013.

But the EAO ruled the company had failed to meet the requirements of the screening, and the company had to refile its application.

In March, the company abruptly withdrew from an environmental screening process, just as the BC EAO was about to make a ruling.

In June 2012, the company was given a checklist – called application information requirements (AIR) – that the company must address as part of the screening.

That AIR has a three-year expiry date, however. And when the clock ran out out, the BC EAO sent a letter to the company earlier this month informing it that the EA process could be terminated.

It appears the company was asked to sit down with the EAO to discuss its options.

In a strongly worded letter to the BC EAO that reads like a parting shot, Stephen Ellis, president and COO for Compliance, said: “I see little merit in sitting down with the EAO to review EA options for the Raven Project.”

Ellis blamed the EAO for delays that have resulted in Japanese and Korean partners – Itochu and LG International Investments – withdrawing from the project.

“It has become a concern to Compliance Coal that the EAO will continue to place roadblocks ahead of the application for the Raven Underground coal project,” Ellis writes.

In his letter Ellis acknowledges that the EA process may be terminated at any time.

“We believe however that the EAO are 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 EA certificate given the built-in biases in the review process.”

Even if the company were to make it through the EA process, coal prices are down to a 10-year low, and the junior mining sector is experiencing one of the worst bear markets in decades – a challenging environment to raise capital for a new mine for any company.

Ellis could not be reached to comment on whether the company’s letter to the BC EAO means it is abandoning the Raven coal project.

Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, said many Vancouver Islanders would be happy to see the Raven coal project abandoned.

“I think it’s time for them to pack up and do something else,” he said.

“They’re really unpopular on Vancouver Island and I think the way they’ve conducted themselves for the last couple of years is a big part of that.”