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Opponents call for termination of Raven Coal Mine application

Scott Stanfield, Comox Valley Record, Sep 2 2015

The Vancouver Island Wilderness Committee feels it’s time for the BC Environment Assessment Office to terminate the application process for the Raven Coal Mine.

“Compliance Energy has consistently failed to navigate B.C.’s environmental review process,” committee campaigner Torrance Coste said in a news release. “And now, rather than provide the information requested, the company is accusing the EAO of bias and making excuses about why its project has gotten absolutely nowhere.”

The company had until Aug. 28 to provide the office with more information about project plans and its intentions.

The EAO rejected the company’s initial application in 2013. Earlier this year, Compliance withdrew a revised application while it tried to clear up some misconceptions about its mine proposal near Baynes Sound. For instance, chief operations officer Stephen Ellis says there are ill perceived issues about dust in Port Alberni, where coal would be stored and shipped.

In a letter to Shelley Murphy of the EAO, Ellis says the application review process has been time-consuming and costly, causing two overseas investors (Itochu and LG) to withdraw from the Raven project after making substantial investments.

“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 and into the application review irrespective of whether the application meets or exceeds all of the AIR requirements,” Ellis states. He notes a working group includes people who have opposed the project from the outset.

The company feels the EAO is not treating the proposal in a fair and transparent manner. Ellis suggests the project would never be able to attain an environmental certificate “given the built-in biases in the review process, the lack of working group expertise in screening the application and the EAO’s reluctance to acknowledge that in fact the AIR has been complied with.

“The very commitment of the BCEAO in working towards an effective and efficient EA on the Raven project is in doubt,” Ellis states.

(For a PDF of the letter in its entirety, go to bit.ly/1JKGUpe)

CoalWatch Comox Valley president John Snyder suggests sour grapes on Ellis’ part.

“Compliance has had over three years to provide the required information in an application, and thus far their efforts in providing that information have been far from adequate,” Snyder said. “CoalWatch still contends that our request for the EAO to terminate the Raven Coal EA is a reasonable one.”

The EAO may terminate an assessment if a proponent hasn’t provided required information within three years of receiving an Application Information Requirements (AIR). But even if a proponent withdraws from an EA, or if an EA is terminated, that does not mean the office has rejected a project.

Compliance is considering its options and seeking advice as to how to address the issue.

“At the end of the day, this company has been given ample opportunity to make its case and it just hasn’t delivered,” Coste said. “Compliance has proven its inability to comply with deadlines and submit information on time…I think part of Compliance’s dilemma is that there is no way to responsibly justify a new coal mine on Vancouver Island. This is a bad project with essentially zero public support, and the company needs to realize that and move on.”

Ellis — who chose not to comment about Coste’s opinions — has said the mine will be developed in an environmentally friendly manner.

Compliance has already spent more than $20 million on the project. The company expects the mine to create about 350 full-time jobs and spinoff jobs. Estimates indicate it could operate 16 years.

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