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K'ómoks Band has concerns about proposed coal mine

By Staff Writer, Comox Valley Record, June 29, 2011

The K’ómoks First Nation harbours some serious concerns about the proposed Raven underground coal mine in Baynes Sound.

In particular, the band believes the project will be harmful to K’omoks aboriginal rights and treaty negotiations.

“This project has the potential to infringe on K’ómoks aboriginal rights and title in the region, and undermine the hard work done at the treaty table in the last year,” K’ómoks chief negotiator Mark Stevenson said this week in a news release.

The KFN took a major step this year by ratifying an Agreement In Principle — the fourth and most critical stage of the six-stage treaty process — which gives the band extensive land and resource rights throughout the Comox Valley.

The KFN said it has three concerns with the project related to treaty negotiations.

For starters, proposed mining activities are potentially underneath Crown land K’ómoks is negotiating at the treaty table. The mine would severely restrict the use of any land added to the K’ómoks land deal, the band claimed.

The band, which is continuing to negotiate water rights, is also concerned about the potential impact on the Tsable River and Cowie Creek drainage systems, which are both part of the negotiations. The environmental impact of the mine on these two systems is unknown.

In addition, the project could have a negative environmental impact on Baynes Sound, where the K’ómoks people have significant shellfish aquaculture interests. This includes shellfish aquaculture licences negotiated at the treaty table.

According to the KFN, Raven Coal has shown no interest in discussing or accommodating aboriginal and treaty rights.

“Unfortunately, it appears the public consultation and review process is moving forward with little regard for K’ómoks' current and future interests in this area,” Stevenson said. “We cannot support any project that hurts K’ómoks’ long-term interests.”

The mine proposal met overwhelming opposition at recent public meetings that drew a combined total of about 1,500 people in Courtenay, Port Alberni and Union Bay.

Project proponent Compliance Coal Corporation expects the proposed mine to operate 16 years, and to produce hundreds of construction and spinoff jobs, some paying six-figure salaries.

The public comment period regarding the draft Application Information Requirements and Environmental Impact Statement Guidelines ended Monday.